By C. Aileen Blaine
Hispanic Heritage Month means different things to different individuals at Youngstown State University. Many view it as a celebration of their culture and heritage, and others see it as a way to spread knowledge of the many contributions Hispanics have and make to society.
For Diana Palardy, associate professor of Spanish, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time for coming together to celebrate culture.
“It’s a time when people from YSU and the local community can get together to celebrate the cultural heritage of people from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries,” she said.
Palardy said the month is an important time of recognition.
“It’s a time to recognize the unique contributions of Hispanics in the Mahoning Valley and the U.S. as a whole,” she said.
Though YSU’s in-person events and celebrations of Hispanic Heritage Month were canceled due to the pandemic, Palardy said in the past she enjoyed the Hispanic Heritage Celebration typically held in Kilcawley Center.
“I enjoy watching the dancing, listening to the music and eating the food,” she said.
To Paulina Montaldo, a part-time professor in the foreign languages department, Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to share the diversity and richness of Hispanic Culture.
“If you think that they are 21 countries that speak Spanish and that they are located in South and Central America, Europe and Africa, the culture is very diverse,” she said. “Also, is the opportunity to recognize those Latinos who have excelled through their work in the United States.”
She said she appreciates how the university’s celebratory events give everyone a chance to enjoy the display of culture and to understand the various traditions present within a common language.
“We have the opportunity to taste the food from various countries, to appreciate the art in different expressions,” Montaldo said. “In my case, I like to dance, teach and perform various typical dances from various countries.”
She also enjoys YSU’s celebrations because they allow for education about diversity.
“This is very important when trying to create awareness about respect and tolerance towards other communities within our own,” Montaldo said.
Yesarily Sanchez Rivera, a senior majoring in criminal justice, said she is proud of her Puerto Rican heritage. Each summer she travels to Puerto Rico to visit family, and she enjoys the chance to learn more about her culture while there, she said.
“I love the food and conversations when I go to back home. Everyone treats you like family and are willing to help, even if they don’t know you,” Rivera said.
She said Hispanic Heritage Month is important to her, and to all Hispanics who fight for what they believe in, and the unity of the community helps them achieve great things.
“It is important to take a moment to appreciate where we came from and what it took to get there. Where we are from is our foundation, therefore our roots make us who we are,” Rivera said. “Taking this month to reflect on that, is a great opportunity and it feels amazing to know that some people support us and celebrate our month with us.”
Alicia Prieto, an associate professor of mathematics and statistics, said Hispanic Heritage Month is not only a celebration of Latino culture.
“As an immigrant, it’s different than if I was born here. Because I was born in Mexico, for me, this is a time of nostalgia, of missing my home country,” Prieto said.
She said it’s important to think of Hispanic Heritage Month as more than just a celebration of culture, but also a recognition of the many contributions Hispanics have made to science, mathematics and history.
“It’s good that we celebrate the contributions of Hispanics and Latinos during this month, but it would be great if it was just something that was part of normal history curriculum, part of normal American culture, part of the normality, instead of something that is relegated to a month.”
She said she likes the direction YSU is taking in its celebrations of Hispanic heritage. Upon her arrival to YSU, Prieto said celebrations were performance-based displays of Hispanic culture. Now, she said, the university has transitioned to more acknowledgement of the academic and historical contributions Hispanics and Latinos have made as well.
“It’s nice to see what I’m from, where I’m from, and my culture being celebrated. It’s really nice,” Prieto said.
Though typical Hispanic Heritage Month events were canceled due to the pandemic, members of the YSU community reflect on what celebrating Hispanic heritage means to them personally.