Celebrating Hispanic heritage

By Shianna Gibbons

Celebrations for National Hispanic Heritage Month kicked off Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 at Youngstown State University. 

The United States celebrates Hispanic Americans for their achievements and cultural influence throughout history, and Central American countries also celebrate their Independence Days throughout the month.

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a bill designating Sept. 15 would be the start of “National Hispanic Heritage Week.” Twenty years later, it was amended under President George H. W. Bush’s administration to become a month-long celebration. 

Paulina Montaldo, adjunct faculty for Spanish in the English and World Languages department, said the U.S. is rich with diversity, and this month is a great way to recognize the cultural and societal influences of the Hispanic community.

“Overcoming the division between cultures is necessary for peace, stability and development,” Montaldo said. “Hispanic heritage month is a tool to teach about diversity. [Just like how we] celebrate the Italian, Polish and Irish [cultures]. I think it’s a good opportunity to bring everyone together and learn.”

YSU’s celebrations are meant to be reflective of all the different influences Hispanic culture has on art, music, dance, film, food and academic-oriented topics such as math. 

Alicia Preito, professor in mathematics and member of the YSU Hispanic heritage planning committee, said YSU will have plenty of fun, engaging activities for everyone to celebrate this month.

“It’s a great opportunity to mix with people who don’t look like you or think differently,” Preito said. “That is very important because that is where you get more compassion and understanding of other things.”

The official start is an opening ceremony on Sept. 15 at the Organización Cívica y Cultural Hispana Americana Social Hall on Shirley Road. The opening ceremony will have a procession of Hispanic countries’ flags, a keynote speaker and proclamations for the month. The keynote speaker is Henry Guzman, a YSU alumnus, and the forest director of OCCHA. 

“At YSU, we have two main events all the time, and one is the opening ceremony which is Sept. 15. Almost every year, we have had it in the Mahoning County Court,” Prieto said. “The opening ceremony is going to be at OCCHA. We [will] have it there because of the 50-year anniversary.”

The second main event is the Hispanic Heritage Celebration in the Chestnut Room of Kilcawley Center Oct. 15. Food, drinks, music, dancing and vendors will be present from noon to 3 p.m. and the event is open to everyone. 

Celebrating and learning more about Hispanic culture does not end on Oct. 15. The Spanish Club on campus is available for those who wish to enrich their life with a different language and culture. Everyone is welcome regardless of major or level of proficiency in Spanish.

George Kerg, a sophomore majoring in Spanish and chemistry and president of the Spanish club, said the club is a safe environment to improve Spanish-speaking skills and to immerse people in Hispanic culture. Kerg expressed the Spanish club is excited to attend the celebrations this year.

“Without culture, you can’t learn a language to its full capacity because culture influences language, decisions, actions, and history. For it to be a month-long celebration is kind of an understatement,” Kerg said. “Just because you’re not ethnically part of that culture doesn’t mean you can’t go and celebrate it, and when YSU brings events here, it helps tremendously.”

Prieto said these are more than just celebrating Hispanic culture. It is a part of a unique experience that is not-so-readily available outside of college life.

“Take advantage of the things all the student activities are doing because it’s part of the student and college experience,” Prieto said. “Students should come to at least one of these events every other week because if you just come to classes, you’re going to get your degree, but you’re missing out on the experience of meeting new people.” 

Below is a list of events for Hispanic Heritage Month. To learn more about how to get involved and the events on campus go to the Hispanic Heritage page on YSU’s website.

  • What is Essential is Invisible to the Eye, exhibit by Reynier Llanes Sept. 4 to Oct. 9.
  • The Constructed Body, Exhibit by Alisa Henriquez Sept. 6 to Oct. 29.
  • Capicú, Exhibit by Orlando Caraballo, Emerging Artist Sept. 12 to Oct. 7
  • Noche de Cine (Movie Night) at Maag. Sept. 13 at 8 p.m.
  • Opening Ceremony with Henry Guzman Sept. 15 at 5:30 p.m.
  • Bilingual Story Time Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. at Youngstown Public Library Main Branch.
  • 50 Years of OCCHA & Work in the Spanish-Speaking Community Lecture
  • International Coffee Hour, Sept. 23, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • A Night with Frida, Sept. 24 at 3 p.m.
  • 12th Annual Non-Violence Parade & Rally, Oct 2 at 3 p.m.
  • Hispanic Heritage Month Colloquium Series, Oct. 5, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
  • MALANIA Carnival, Oct. 8, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Columbian Cheese Arepas, Oct. 8, 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Hispanic Heritage Celebration, Oct. 15, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Día De Muertos Celebration, Nov. 2, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • OCCHA’s 50th Anniversary Gala Fundraiser, Nov. 4, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Veterans Appreciation Dinner, Nov. 12, 5:30 p.m.