Hispanic Heritage Month comes to close

Today is the culmination of salsa lessons, siestas, Latin film festivals, and Spanish posters on campus, otherwise known as Hispanic Heritage Month at Carnegie Mellon. The annual 30-day celebration, which ran this year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, featured lectures, late-night activities, movie screenings, and a service fair with the Hispanic community of Pittsburgh.

The events highlighted the Hispanic organizations on campus, especially the Spanish and Latin American Student Association (SALSA), Latin American Business Association, and National Society of Hispanic Engineers (NSHE).

Several other organizations helped with the month, including the Multicultural Presidents’ Council (MPC). The group is a collaboration of cultural organizations that works together to present a cohesive stand on diversity on campus and to promote events such as those held during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Intended to raise awareness of Hispanic culture in the Carnegie Mellon community and beyond, organizers of the month’s events aimed to facilitate a connection between students and different facets of Hispanic culture that students could take with them beyond University Center walls.

“Hispanic Heritage Month is not just food, music, and dancing,” said M. Shernell Smith, coordinator of Student Activities and member of the planning committee for this year’s event. “It’s about a celebration of culture, an awareness of Pittsburgh’s Hispanic population, and a highlighting of student groups on campus.”

Events were scheduled for nearly every day of the month.

On Sept. 23, Carnegie Mellon hosted Al Servicio de la Comunidad 2007, a service fair for Pittsburgh’s Hispanic population. The fair, held in Rangos Hall, brought together over 100 exhibitors and almost 1000 attendees, including Pittsburgh residents and Carnegie Mellon students, faculty, and staff.

The service organizations presented Pittsburgh’s Hispanic population with information on how to buy a house, get a driver’s license, open a bank account, and access health care and other social services.

Students specializing in Hispanic studies in the department of modern languages had the opportunity to act as interpreters during the fair to ensure that English and non-English speaking attendees fully understood what was going on.

Spanish signs were placed on campus directing the attendees to Rangos Hall, and music and Latin food were provided.

“I didn’t really know what to think when I saw so many Spanish signs around campus that weekend,” said Joel Weiss, a junior economics major. “But I think it’s awesome that we were doing
something so directly related to the city where we live.”

Some of the events were intended only for students. Organizers hoped to familiarize them with Hispanic culture through fun, informal cultural experiences.

During Hispanic Culture Day on Oct. 6, a group of Hispanic students gathered in the Connan Room. Surrounded by free food, a live band, and Latin American crafts, non-Hispanic students had the chance to interact with the student organizations.

This event took place in the mid-afternoon, at the typical time of a Spanish siesta.

Speak Your Mind, held on Oct. 9 in the University Center, integrated Hispanic culture with music.

The key lecture, titled, “From Hip-Hop & Techno to Salsa, Rock or Jazz: What can your music do?” was led by Carnegie Mellon Hispanic studies professor Felipe Gomez and facilitated by two of his students.

Gomez spoke about how he experienced growing up in Latin America and the world of music there, and how he brought it with him to the United States.

“This event was an infusion of culture and language through music,” said Smith. “I think the message really got across to the students.”

Noche Latina, the late-night event held on Sept. 18, was another program that used music to get across its message.

Sponsored by SALSA and the SMARC, the event included a live salsa band and dancing lessons, complete with Latin food.

“I thought the Noche Latina late-night was awesome,” said Alexa Beaver, a sophomore chemical engineering and Hispanic studies double major. “I mean, who wouldn’t want to dance and listen to salsa for a night?”

Noche Latina’s salsa dancing was just one of the many events that immersed students in Hispanic culture.

However, events held last week were attended by fewer people in comparison to events held earlier in the month. Midterms and large amounts of work before mid-semester break may have been the cause of the uncharacteristic absenteeism, Smith said.

Despite the smaller turnout, Smith said, the event’s organizers remained optimistic and very happy with the way the month turned out.

“We were able to bring in some politically charged speakers, integrate the Pittsburgh community, and get a really great reaction from our students,” Smith said.

As this year’s event comes to an end, the Office of Student Activities is already planning for next year’s celebration.

However, the end of Hispanic Heritage Month should not be the end of celebrating Hispanic heritage, Smith emphasized.

“Hispanic Heritage Month is not something that should be taken as a 30-day event,” Smith said. “Celebration of one’s culture, whether it be Hispanic, Asian, African-American, or any other people, is really a 365-day event."