By Aaniyah Hakeem
Youngstown State University and the Mahoning Valley began celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with various activities to welcome and experience Hispanic culture.
Hispanic Heritage Month is not an official month on the calendar, with the celebration starting Sept. 15 and ending on Oct. 15. The theme for the month is “Celebrating the Hispanic Culture and Its Influence in Our Nation.”
The celebration recognizes the accomplishments of Hispanic Americans who have inspired others to achieve success.
Alicia Prieto Langarica, a native of Mexico who arrived at YSU only seven years ago, is reaching her sixth year of being a part of the YSU Hispanic Heritage Committee.
Prieto Langarica, associate professor in the department of mathematics and statistics, said she feels it is essential to celebrate Hispanic heritage.
“I wish it were not. I wish we did not need a whole month to celebrate this but because most of our stories are not the day to day things that you see,” she said. “We do not talk about our history in normal history classes.”
She said it is important to know that Latinos and Hispanics contribute to this country and have been here even before the United States was a country.
“It is important to take the time and a moment to see that immigrants right now are not very welcomed,” Prieto Langarica said. “It’s important to know that some of us are immigrants, and some of us have been living here for a while, and we all contribute to this country.”
Erica Bajo Calderon is also a native of Mexico and unexpectedly met Prieto Langarica, who convinced her to attend YSU.
Bajo Calderon, a mathematics master’s degree student, said Hispanic Heritage Month is close to her heart.
“It’s a part of who I am, but for the month itself, it means celebrating the culture and different variations of our culture depending on what Hispanic country you’re from,” she said.
“I can see myself represented here in the United States and how we have contributed to the growth of this country,” Bajo Calderon added.
Gina Villamizar, a native of Colombia and an assistant professor of Spanish, began teaching at YSU in the fall of 2014.
She said the month is an opportunity to show the contribution of the Hispanic community in the United States.
“It is crucial here in the United States because there are immigrants, the people who live here and who have become a significant component in this society, so it is an opportunity for the whole month to share different contributions in the different areas,” Villamizar said.
Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to learn about and recognize the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
The start date of Sept. 15 was chosen because it’s Independence Day for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Also during the monthlong period are Mexico’s and Chile’s independence days, as well as Día de la Raza, a national holiday in Mexico.
For more information on the events planned at YSU to celebrate the month, call 330-941-1717 or email [email protected].