Person of Color Column: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month away from home

When Sept. 15 arrived, the first day of National Hispanic Heritage Month, I was eager to go to the Dining Center to see the foods they’d be serving that day. However, my heart broke when I opened up the Emerson app and realized there were no Hispanic foods being served.

Much to my surprise, there was nothing displayed around campus advertising any meetings, events, or celebrations for this month. President M. Lee Pelton didn’t send out an email about the month’s celebration or any suggestions on how Emerson students could celebrate it. If the president of the college won’t even recognize Black History Month, which celebrates who he is, how can I expect him to recognize mine? 

Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon B. Johnson. President Ronald Reagan expanded it in 1988, and enacted into law on Aug. 17, 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on Sept. 15.

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Growing up in a half-Puerto Rican household, celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is not out of the ordinary. Whether I watched Spanish films, cooked Spanish meals, or just spent time with my Hispanic friends and family, I always set aside time to celebrate the holiday with my loved ones.

But since coming to college, I’ve found it overwhelmingly difficult to continue with these traditions, due to the lack of celebratory events the college provides. I’ve heard from my friends at other colleges that their institutions recognize the month and hold celebratory events throughout.

One of my best friends in high school was Peruvian, and she introduced me to the importance of honoring a month dedicated to my ancestors and cultural background. We drove around blasting Daddy Yankee and J Balvin. I listened to her talk about what it was like to live in Peru and all the Latin traditions she celebrated with her dad’s family that she couldn’t experience in America.

We tried to carry on Hispanic traditions together, like celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve, and opening our gifts right when it strikes midnight.

Even though our friendship faded, what she taught me did not. Although Emerson does not institutionally recognize the month, I still brought those traditions with me to college.

My friends from my freshman year in college would exchange gifts before Christmas in an attempt to recreate the Christmas I was used to. I also tried to buy groceries at Roche Bros. to cook tacos, empanadas, and tortillas in honor of the month.

Sophomore Ashly Ibarra celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month at college by joining Latinx organizations like Amigos or Raiz Magazine. Amigos is a multicultural group at Emerson that brings Latin culture to campus.The organization recognizes heritage month and holds events every two weeks throughout the year to bring the Latinx community together.

“It kind of brings the whole community together,” Ibarra said. “So joining orgs like that is where you can find a community, and we can all celebrate together.” 

Junior Pedro Noah Espinola serves as the president of Amigos and brings a variety of speakers, performers, food, and activities that embody the many Latin and Hispanic nations and cultures to Emerson.

 “[Amigos] creates a space for Latin Americans and Latinos, who feel like they can speak Spanish or Portuguese, and just kind of let out that side of themselves that they don’t always let out,” Espinola said.

Aside from on-campus organizations hosting events throughout the month, Latinx students can take part in events throughout the Boston area. The Second Annual Hispanic Breakfast hosted by CENTRO Las Americas celebrates the achievements and contributions made by Hispanics and others. 

Other events set to take place after the month of celebration is over include the 2019 El Mundo Boston Latino 30 under 30, which celebrates young Latinx individuals creating an impact on the Massachusetts Latinx community in a variety of fields such as business, sports, community service, and fine arts. The event also offers a space to socialize and meet new people.

Hispanic Heritage Month represents a large part of who I am as a person—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Despite only getting a month dedicated to my culture and heritage to be nationally recognized, I view every day as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. I encourage everyone to honor this month as a time to become more aware of Latinx culture; our foods, struggles, ancestors, traditions, and achievements.

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