La Casa celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month


Juchari Sirankua plays traditional music during the La Casa reception celebrating the start of National Hispanic Heritage month Tuesday afternoon at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. Rachel Meert and Rachel Meert

The Mathers Museum of World Cultureswas transformed into the setting for a celebration during a reception to kick off National Hispanic Heritage Month on Tuesday. The event, sponsored by La Casa Latino Cultural Center, featured food and live music.

The reception was the first of many events to be sponsored by La Casa throughout the month. The City of Bloomington Commission of Hispanic and Latino Affairs, the Latino Programs and Outreach Division, IU’s Latino studies department, and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies also sponsor many of these events.

“This event is a great way to let the community and IU students know that we’re going to be having a month full of celebration,” said Araceli Gomez, City of Bloomington Latino outreach coordinator. “There are a lot of contributing members in our community that are Latino and Hispanic, and we are celebrating them and our culture.”

The performing band, called Juchari Sirankua, is a family from Chicago. They have been playing at events for the last five years, and they set the tone for the evening.

Setting the tone is what this event is really all about, La Casa Director Lillian Casillas said.

“This month really puts a limelight on us that creates a positive image for the rest of the year,” Casillas said.

Some of the individuals who contribute to the community were recognized at the reception, as the event was also a platform for the City of Bloomington Commission of Hispanic and Latino Affairs’ annual award ceremony.

Four major awards were given. The Outstanding Latino Leader Award, given to an individual who serves as a role model within the Latino community, was presented to IU faculty member Raquel Anderson, who works in the speech pathology program.

The Outstanding Community Organization Award was given to Volunteers in Medicine, a group that offers free medical services in Monroe and Brown counties to anyone in need, particularly underrepresented populations and those in poverty.

The Latino Community Advocate Award was introduced as an honor given to someone who, while not Latino or Hispanic, advocates for the Latino community. The award was given to IU faculty member Dr. Ellen Vaughan, who works in the Ph.D. program in counseling 

The final awards were the Outstanding High School Senior Awards. Usually, one student is honored each year, said Israel Herrera, chair of the City of Bloomington Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs. This year, however, three students were honored.

The students were Jose Adorno-Cancel, Juan Pablo Perez Soto and Ana Olavarrieta. All three students are seniors at Bloomington High School South.

“We use this month to not only remember our culture and history, but also to recognize the movers and shakers who create a positive environment for the Latino community,” Casillas said during the presentation of awards.

National Hispanic Heritage Month was started in 1968 by then-president Lyndon B. Johnson. It originally lasted only a week, but it was extended to be a monthlong event during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The month starts Sept. 15 and ends Oct. 15.

Many future events focus on advocacy and activism.

“We are celebrating our culture, but at the same time, we are advocating for a lot of things that the Latino community still needs,” Gomez said.

Such future events include film showings, dinners, guest speakers and a soccer 

“We want people to look at the diversity of topics related to Latinos, to recognize that we are making contributions and to connect with people within the community,” 
Casillas said.

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