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The Indiana Daily Student

La Casa celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month, serves Latine community year-round

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Friday marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States. The month, which lasts from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, celebrates the history, cultures and contributions of American citizens who are of Spanish, Mexican, Carribean and South and Central American descent, according to the national website.

La Casa, the Latino Cultural Center at IU, will participate and host several events during National Hispanic Heritage Month.

“I feel like sometimes being part of Hispanic Heritage Month doesn't mean like only putting out a banner that says ‘happy Hispanic Heritage Month’, it's more like just being proactive,” Ruth Vaca, administrative generalist coordinator at La Casa, said. “It's like part of life; it's a lifestyle for us, but I understand why it's necessary and why we celebrate it because people forget.”

Vaca said the highlight of La Casa’s celebration will be its 50th anniversary party, which will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 14 in the Indiana Memorial Union’s Alumni Hall.

The 50th anniversary celebration, according to La Casa’s website, begins on Oct. 13 and ends Oct.15. Alumni, along with current students, faculty, staff, family, friends and children are welcome to register. Activities will include a pop-up exhibit about La Casa from the IU Archives, a panel of alumni and current Latine students and a banquet that is open to the public. Registration is required for the banquet along with the entire weekend.

“It is something that we like to promote or speak on because it is a reminder that we've been here for 50 years,” Vaca said.

Vaca said the center will attend Fiesta Del Otoño at noon Sept. 16 at the Switchyard Park Pavilion. The festival is a celebration of Latin American and Hispanic culture hosted by the city of Bloomington. It has been taking place every year since 2005, according to the city of Bloomington website.

La Casa will be at the festival, Vaca said, with a table to tell people about the center. She said there will be mariachi, dancing and cuisine from a variety of Latin American cultures.

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Hispanic, which traditionally means Latino or Latina, she said, includes people from countries that are largely Spanish-speaking and Brazil, which speaks Portuguese. Hispanic or Latine, she said, is not just Mexico and Colombia but also South America, North America and European identities.

Hispanic, she said, is also a term that is less commonly used, with much of the community opting to call themselves Latine, the gender-neutral version of Latina or Latino.

Vaca said La Casa will also take part in the Monroe County Community School Corporations 11th annual Latino Family night from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 18 at Bloomington High School North. She said the members of the center try to be present on campus but also out in the community to support all the Latine identifying student groups in the area.

The culture center will also host an event called Nuestras Raíces: Déjame Que Te Cuente, We All Have A Atory at 7 p.m. Sept. 13 at La Casa. The event will allow attendees to share family traditions, culture and history in an open-mic, family-style setting.

“We're gonna have some food and music, and it's a little bit of folklore if you really think about it,” Vaca said. “It's almost like the oral tradition of passing down repeat myths or just experiences so it's a way of connecting with your roots no matter where you're from.”

Additionally, the Puerto Rican Student Association will present the first of three food demonstrations as a part of the La Casa’s Sabores De, or flavors of, program which highlights a different country or group each semester. Attendees will learn how to make Puerto Rican dishes from scratch. The demos will take place from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Sept. 23, Oct. 21 and Nov. 11 at La Casa.

La Casa, Vaca said, is also partnering with the Lotus Festival, which starts Sept. 28 and ends Oct 1. La Casa is co-sponsoring a Latin American band who will visit the center and have a lunch event from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 14 at La Casa.

But at La Casa, Vaca said, celebration and support of the Latine community are not just for one month; they’re ongoing.

Vaca said all of the programs La Casa has this month are a glimpse of what the center does to support the community.

Additionally, La Casa hosts the Latino Male Initiative, the Latina Initiative and La Casa’s Queer Alliance, bi-weekly groups that meet during the semester, Vaca said. These groups are given a budget from the center and have either catered food or food made for them by La Casa every week.

“The director likes to cook for them, which is really sweet.” Vaca said.

The Latino Male Initiative is a community for Latino men at IU to connect, support, learn and grow through discussions and social events. Meetings take place from 7 to 8 p.m. every other Tuesday at La Casa. To learn more contact Jaffet Cruz at cruzjy@iu.edu or Leonardo Alba Lopez at laalbalo@iu.edu.

The Latina Initiative aims to connect, support and empower people who identify as female and Latinas at IU Bloomington. The Latina Initiative will meet at 7 p.m. on Sept. 25, Oct. 9, Oct. 23, Nov. 6 and Nov. 27 at La Casa. For more information, email lacasa@indiana.edu.

La Casa’s Queer Alliance’s goal is to give LGBTQ+ Latines a safe space within IU to develop support systems, explore educational and advocacy opportunities, have fun and grow. The alliance meets at 7 p.m. on Sept. 14 and 28, Oct. 12 and 26, and Nov. 9 and 30 at La Casa. To learn more, email lacasa@indiana.edu.

“Some people, even though they're queer and they're part of the Latina or Latino initiative, they feel more comfortable in the Queer Alliance,” Vaca said.

Vaca said the center is also a hub of resources for students, including tutoring services, emotional support and guidance. The center offers counseling services for Latine identifying students every Monday from 10 a.m. to almost 5 p.m.

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The center’s goal, Vaca said, is to encourage students to pursue higher education and education in general.

“A lot of students don't know about grad school, or they're intimidated by the process,” Vaca said. “And so, we really want to encourage the student body here.”

The center also has free weekly writing tutorial services, and the center co-sponsors a thematic dorm floor focused on Latine students.

Having hubs for people who identify within a specific group are nice, Vaca said, and that’s why the cultural centers are so important.

“The thing is you have to remember that a lot of people from this community come here and get homesick from their culture or their neighborhood or how they grew up,” Vaca said.

To learn more about La Casa and their upcoming events, visit their website.

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