Latino Heritage Month embraces students’ culture

Students of all ages and races gathered in the Student Center’s Big Muddy Room Wednesday evening to make Latino-inspired masks as part of a Latino Heritage Month event.

Organizers said they hope the participants gathered more than just mask-making skills.

Latino Heritage Month began Sept. 15 and will continue until Oct. 15. Events such as Wednesday’s “Masks and Justice,” which was sponsored by the Center for Inclusive Excellence and Hispanic Resource Center, are scheduled throughout the month and are aimed to promote Latino culture and customs.

“I think it’s important because even though there’s not a wide Hispanic population on campus, we want to make a bigger difference as a group,” said Edith Ortiz-Ruiz, a sophomore from Chicago studying civil engineering. “We are trying to teach about Hispanic culture by joining together with a common goal.”

Jazmin Duran, a junior from Elgin studying Spanish and international trade, works at the Hispanic Resource Center on campus and said Latino Heritage Month is important to build cultural competence on campus.

“This month is in place for other students on campus to get an understanding of what our culture is, where we come from and why we are the way we are,” she said. “It also helps Latino students on campus learn more about themselves.”

Alberto Rosario, a senior from Puerto Rico who is also an intern at the Hispanic Resource Center, said he is very excited about the month’s events.

“It gives opportunities for not only Hispanic cultures, but different types of cultures to keep their practices alive,” he said. “It’s what gives life meaning. It’s a melting pot that gives you a perspective of global viewpoints.”

Ortiz-Ruiz and Duran said it is unfortunate that SIU doesn’t have very many Latino faculty members. They said the amount of Latino faculty members is very small compared to the amount of Latino students on campus.

However, they said the addition of the Hispanic Resource Center and The Center for Inclusive Excellence are steps in the right direction.

“I think we are getting there, but it’s going to take a long time,” Duran said. “There are still a lot of things on campus that haven’t been met.”

Ortiz-Ruiz said the Latino students meet together year-round and not just during this one month. She said Registered Student Organizations, including the Hispanic Student Council and the newly founded Latino Cultural Association promote the interaction among students of different cultures.

However, Ortiz-Ruiz said the one month devoted to Latino culture across campus is nice because her culture is something she can always fall back on when she misses home.

“The campus might not be similar to home, but the Hispanic part is really comforting,” she said. “If those who are homesick see that there are people on campus that can relate to the cultural experiences they’ve had, that may help them enjoy the campus more.”

The next Latino Heritage Month event is today. A classical Latin American and Spanish vocal music concert will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Old Baptist Foundation.

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