Electric Latin pop and hip-hop music coursed through Gasson 100 for the Hispanic Heritage Month Opening Ceremony on Thursday afternoon. Originally scheduled to be held at O’Neill Plaza, the event was relocated inside Gasson because of rain—but nevertheless garnered a large student turnout.
Rev. Michael Davidson, S.J., director of the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center (BAIC), who was largely responsible for planning the event, expressed that celebrating the different cultures at BC is fundamental to understanding what makes BC the place it is.
“I want them to celebrate who they are, but also for others to learn,” he said. “I want all the cultures to come together to appreciate each other’s culture.”
The event began with a procession of representatives from various culture clubs parading the flags of their respective countries, including Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Mexico. Representatives from each of the clubs then introduced themselves and presented the mission statements for their organizations.
Marcela Norton, an employee relations officer for BC Dining Services—who has helped coordinate Hispanic Heritage Month since its inception at BC 10 years ago—spoke at the celebration. She emphasized that the goal of the event is to spotlight the various heritages at BC by exhibiting different aspects of their cultures, including food, dance, and music, and ensuring that all the Latinx student organizations are involved in the celebration.
Associate Vice President for Student Engagement and Formation Tom Mogan and Vice President for Student Affairs Joy Moore spoke at the event and thanked those who were there for attending.
Moore told the audience that the theme in the Division of Student Affairs for the year is “we are one” and encouraged the various culture club members to support one another in all the programs, events, and activities they participate in.
Davidson said he hopes that this Hispanic Heritage Month will encourage all groups, not just those associated with Hispanic heritage, to support each other and that it will be a time of “collective celebration” for the members of the BC community.
This celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month is especially important because the Hispanic population is currently going through a difficult time, said Davidson, who cited the challenges many have faced at the United States border.
“[Hispanic Heritage Month] encourages them to really appreciate themselves and to know they are gifted and that BC will value who they are,” he said.
Davidson said he hopes the month will result in a “bridge” that will allow the various groups across campus to live in harmony and peace.
The Organization of Latin American Affairs (OLAA), one of the clubs in attendance at the event, represents all of the Latin American countries that don’t already have a culture club on campus. The organization’s projects and meetings address topics like indigenous rights and current events, such as last year’s Nicaragua crisis—a period of violent uprising against the country’s government.
This semester, the club plans on discussing the effects of climate change in Brazil. The club’s goal is to encourage the students to help each other and become allies no matter their race, religion, or sexuality.
Mariana Quintero, MCAS ’21, and Nina Figueroa, MCAS ’22—two executive board members for OLAA—said that celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is important not only on a national level, but also at BC.
“It’s important to feel represented to feel like you matter,” Quintero said. “It’s important to be there and support these groups.”
The room erupted in applause, both in anticipation of and following the performance of Fuego del Corazón, winner of the Competition category of last year’s ALC Showdown.
For the students in attendance, this event commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month served as a time to bring together those who have shared similar experiences related to being a minority in the United States and at BC, Figueroa said.
“It’s just nice to see people who are similar to you and who look like you, and that you can relate to,” she said.
The event took a more serious turn when students began sharing their experiences through “spoken word” compositions that narrated their personal stories and experiences as minorities.
Matthew Alvarado, CSOM ’20, presented a slam poetry piece that he dedicated to his grandmother. The room was moved to silence by his emotional account of having left his extended family, including his ill grandmother, in California when he went to college and the struggles of being apart from his family and culture.
Alvarado said that he inherited his resilience from his grandparents, who immigrated from Guatemala. Alvarado shared the powerful advice his grandmother imparted on him: to “find a way to become a better [him] and create opportunity.”
The event concluded with students flocking to the tables that were overflowing with various Hispanic delicacies.
Featured Image by Madeleine Romance / Heights Editor