Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at WPU

October 10, 2023

Hispanic Heritage Month, observed from September 15 to October 15, is a time to celebrate the rich tapestry of Latin American cultures, history, and contributions. This month holds a special significance as it commemorates the independence anniversaries of several Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

These Latin American countries gained their independence from Spanish colonial rule on Sept. 15, 1821. Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence days on September 16th and September 18th, contributing to the month-long celebration.

The celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month is crucial because it provides a platform to shed light on the often-overlooked Latin communities. As David Suarez, Assistant Director of Admissions at WPU and a proud Colombian-American points out, there is immense untapped potential within these communities, “There is so much skill and so much potential from Latin communities that is not being used simply because the assumption is that Latins are blue-collar workers.” 

Stereotypes often cast Latinos as blue-collar workers, neglecting their skills and aspirations. This month serves as an opportunity to break free from these stereotypes and share the stories of immigrants who have overcome adversity to achieve success.

“We should highlight the story of the struggle of identity that most of us have experienced because many Latinos come into the United States and immediately it is assumed that they have the same types of privileges as everyone else but in reality, they’re starting from a very unprivileged place and they have to catch up,” Saurez says. 

At WPU, the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month holds a special significance due to the significant presence of Latino students on campus. According to Saurez, there are many Latino students who are not actively engaged or involved in campus activities. This observation highlights the importance of creating a sense of belonging and inclusion for all students, including those from Hispanic backgrounds.

It’s essential to celebrate Latino students without imposing any expectations or changes on their identity Saurez emphasizes, “We should celebrate Latinos without having them change who they are as people.” 

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month on campus provides opportunities for students to embrace and share their unique cultural identities. Hispanic Heritage Month serves as a platform to achieve this goal by highlighting the diverse Hispanic identities present on WPU’s campus. 

International sophomore student Francesca Diaz Del Olmo Calvo says, “As a Peruvian studying in Raleigh, NC I have experienced firsthand how it is to live in a melting pot. Meeting people from different countries, backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs emphasizes the importance of recognizing and celebrating those differences, and Hispanic Heritage Month gives us an opportunity to do that. This is the time to recognize and share with people what makes us who we are.” 

By recognizing and celebrating individual Hispanic backgrounds, such as Peruvian, Mexican, Colombian, and more, the university can foster an environment where all students feel valued and respected for who they are.

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, WPU hosted the “Trailblazing Pa’lante” event on Sept. 20, which featured Suarez sharing insights on engaging Latinos in the community and exploring the values that drive them. This event aimed to bridge the gap between cultures and foster inclusivity.

DEI hosted the “Mi Casa Tu Casa” event on September 26. This event allowed students to immerse themselves in Latino street food culture and community, offering a taste of the vibrant Latin experience. Food, a universal language, serves as a symbol of cultural diversity within the Latino community. 

Saurez mentions empanadas as an example—every Latin American country has its unique take on this beloved dish. Just as empanadas vary, so do the experiences, languages, and traditions of Latin Americans. WPU aspires to provide a more diverse exposure to Latino cultures and foods, fostering an environment where every student’s identity is celebrated.