As members of the IU Hispanic and Latino communities celebrate the National Hispanic Heritage Month, many called for IU administrators and students to recognize and appreciate their culture beyond the commemoration.
Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates Hispanic and Latino people living in the U.S. It starts on Sept. 15 and ends Oct. 15. IU has and will continue to celebrate the Hispanic Heritage Month with lectures, workshops and art and social events both online and in person.
Alberto Varon, director of the IU Latino Studies Program, said he believes the university does a good job supporting and hosting Hispanic heritage events across campus through work done by La Casa LatinoCultural Center and the Latino studies program.
Varon said the Latino community’s mission during Hispanic Heritage month at IU is to help students become more familiar with what is happening on campus and how they can help outside the months of September and October.
Varon said the COVID-19 pandemic has forced members of the Hispanic community to find creative ways to interact with each other virtually.
“Our job through National Hispanic and Latina History Month is to bring our communities back together this coming year as we return to normal life post-pandemic,” Varon said.
IU senior Evelyn Sanchez, co-president of Latinos Unidos, said its celebrations have been centered around the Latino community coming back together by supporting the events of each other's organizations.
“There is a big appreciation when people attend these events,” Sanchez said. “So the community knows all their hard work is not for nothing.”
Sanchez said IU’s Hispanic and Latino community is small but growing and everyone knows each other, which is why the community feels connected.
Sept. 16, the second day of the heritage month, is also Mexican Independence Day. Sanchez said a tradition she shares with friends performing a collective El Grito, which is a traditional cry of pride to celebrate Mexican independence and your ancestors.
According to IU’s diversity breakdown, IU is a predominantly white institution with 23,386 white undergraduate students enrolled. In comparison, there are 2,693 Hispanic and Latino undergraduate students, according to the breakdown.
“Most of the events that are held this month that I see are Latino based, so I have not seen much on the university level of how they celebrate Latino and Hispanic students and staff,'' Sanchez said.
Luis Fuentes-Rohwer, an IU professor of law, said the pandemic exposes how Latinos often feel invisible in American society and daily life.
Fuentes-Rohwer said people in the Latino community who work in the restaurant industry do not get the recognition they deserve for the work they do.
“When the pandemic hit and restaurants closed, you are not even aware that communities are being hit,” Fuentes-Rohwer said.
Fuentes-Rohwer said Hispanic and Latino culture should not only be celebrated during this month and ignored for the rest of the year.
“Why are we just spending a month?” Fuentes-Rohwer said. “We should be thinking about it more inclusively.”