Hispanic Heritage Month ends but its message continues

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Oct. 17, 2006 


Sunday marked the conclusion of Hispanic Heritage Month, which ran Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 and honors Hispanic culture in America. But residents and officials say Hispanic heritage has a greater place in Bloomington than 30 days can capture.

Since the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, Bloomington has had citywide events surrounding Hispanic culture and Bloomington's Hispanic community. Last weekend, hundreds of children and their parents cycled in and out of the Monroe County Public Library to view colorful piñatas, play with puppets and dance to festive music. The children were entertained while celebrating and learning about Hispanic culture.

While enjoying enchiladas verdes and cheese enchiladas with her young daughters, Bloomington resident Julie Benish talked about how excited she was for the events.

"I knew I would have to come by when I saw all of the banners hanging up (in the library)," she said. "I don't know why anybody would leave early -- the music is great."

However, it's not just mariachi music and spicy food that the month celebrates. It's a celebration of how Hispanic Americans impact society in all aspects, said Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan.

"The National Hispanic Heritage Month celebration and proclamation are important symbolic recognitions of the importance of our Hispanic community's vital role in our culture, society and history," Kruzan said in an e-mail. "We need to ensure the message of the month is remembered throughout the year."

According to the 2005 U.S. Census, people of Hispanic and Latino decent represent a little more than 4 percent of Monroe County's population.

"The Hispanic/Latino population nationally and locally is rising at a greater rate than other populations," Kruzan said. "Our new neighbors face challenges that are everyone's responsibility to address. The language barrier, educational opportunities, job placement and other issues need our attention."

And though language barriers can cause trouble when communicating and integrating into American life, Bloomington has been a patient town for Maria Diaz.

Diaz, a waitress of eight years at Mexican restaurant La Torre, said that it's Bloomington's friendly atmosphere that makes her feel included in such a diverse community.

"The community is really nice. It's really friendly," said Diaz, who is originally from La Piedad, Michoacan, Mexico.. "Whenever I've needed help, they've given me help."

In addition to the daylong activities at the library, community events this month have included Festival Latino, a free Lotus Festival concert organized by IU's La Casa; Fall Fiesta, an event held in conjunction with the Bloomington Farmers Market; and events held by the St. Paul Catholic Center.

Bobby Overton, a coordinator of Saturday's Hispanic events at the library, said all these activities have been planned to work well with each other and be spread throughout the month.

Overton's goal for the library's event was to educate the community and celebrate Hispanic culture, something she said can be achieved by people taking advantage of the library's large collection of Spanish publications and resources. The collection includes Spanish-language magazines such as People en Español and Vanidades, as well as Spanish versions of popular novels.

Overton's goal of education for the community is also representative of what Kruzan said is an important part of Hispanic Heritage Month.

"The true definition of the word 'community' is only met when all people are made to feel that they are entirely included," he said.


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