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Oberlin Celebrates Latino/a Heritage Month

September 18, 2013

James Helmsworth

On Saturday, September 14, Oberlin students celebrated the beginning of Latino/a Heritage Month (LHM) with a celebration of several Latin American countries' independence, at La Casa Hispánica (Spanish House). Latino/a Heritage Month, which runs through October 15, celebrates the culture, achievements, and heritage of Latinos and Latinas.

The LHM programming was put together by a panel of Latino/a students, the LHM committee, who volunteered their time. The month’s events include such speakers as incarceration expert Bob Libal and New York University Professor Arlene Davila, who will speak Thursday, September 19, on what academics can learn from Arizona’s efforts to keep Mexican-American history out of the classroom. In addition to the LHM Committee, LHM events are sponsored by La Alianza Latina, the Multicultural Resource Center, and La Casa Hispánica, as well as the Dean of Students’ Office, and the Office of the President.

Jesus Gomez, Latin o/a Community Coordinator at Oberlin’s Multicultural Resource Center, organized the LHM panel and navigated the logistics of bringing speakers. He says that this year’s speakers were selected based on their relevancy to what Oberlin’s Latin o/a community is discussing and studying. “My role is to get what the students want,” Gomez says.

The purpose of this year’s LHM is to celebrate Latinidad as it exists today, says Victoria Velasco, a junior and member of the LHM committee. Translated literally, Latinidad refers to Latin languages, specifically Spanish. The term has come to encompass the social, cultural, and political importance of diasporic Latino/a communities whose countries of origin are the Spanish-speaking countries of Central America, the Caribbean, and South America.

Oberlin’s 2013 LHM celebrates Latinidad as a “quintessentially diverse, transnational, and changing phenomenon in the Americas and the rest of the world,” says Gomez.

Velasco concurs. “We don’t want it to be a cultural heritage month in which we celebrate what our culture used to be, but rather, how it’s transforming,” she says.

Though the events focus on Latino/a communities, Gomez encourages individuals from all different backgrounds to attend. "They're events for everyone," he says.

In keeping with the celebration’s contemporary focus, the month will conclude with a banquet that will feature presentation of students’ scholarship on Latina/o communities.

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