BY EMMA RUBIN '20
From mid-September to mid-October, members of the Latinx community across the country celebrate Latinx Heritage Month. The purpose of the month is to celebrate the histories and cultures of American citizens whose ancestors hail from Mexico, Spain, Central and South America and the Caribbean. According to HispanicHeritageMonth.gov, the tradition began as a celebratory week in 1968 started under President Lyndon Johnson. In 1988, it was expanded to encompass a 30-day period from the Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Sept. 15 marks the anniversary of independence for El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Chile and Mexico celebrate their independence on the Sept. 18 and the Sept. 16, respectively.
Last week, MEChA hosted the Taste of Latinidad event on Skinner Green, which offered a myriad of Latin foods. Kimberly Mota ’18, who is a member of MEChA, said, “we wanted to do an event [that would be] representative of different cultures, so we have, for example, flautas and enchiladas. The event is mostly to fundraise for different events that we want to do throughout the year and bring awareness to Latinx heritage on campus. We are also currently in the process of finalizing certain events that will take place for Latinx heritage month.”
La Unidad is another Latinx group on campus that offers a cultural, educational and social space for members who identify as Latinx to come together and express their identities. Sarah Ramirez ’17, one of the co-chairs of La Unidad, shared what Latinx means to her personally. “It’s about reflection and thinking about our history. I didn’t really celebrate Latinx Heritage Month growing up and I didn’t really know about it until I came here, but the more I’ve learned about how the culture isn’t appreciated on a wider scale, especially this year with everything going on with Donald Trump’s rhetoric,” said Ramirez, “the month is really important in terms of educating people and giving people the space to really appreciate the culture, for giving us time for an unabashed celebration of our culture.”
For fellow La Unidad co-chair Ana Karolina Sousa ’19, Latinx Heritage Month is “a celebration for different cultures. I’m Brazilian and it’s a time for my culture to come together with other Latinx cultures and celebrate unity.”
According to Ramirez, La Unidad was founded in 1994 by Professor Emeritus Eliana Ortega. The group was given the Ortega Cultural House in 1995.
At the time of inception, its purpose was to have a space for Latina women in a predominantly white culture. Over time it has progressed and transformed to be a space for Latinx people and to accommodate anyone regardless of gender identity. The primary goal now is fostering community through the Latinx diaspora. Every year, the group has a main event, such as this year’s Noche Latina event, which includes a dinner and performance. This year’s theme is ‘Latinx in the Urban Diaspora.’
Both Sousa and Ramirez feel that there is not an appropriate Latinx voice on campus and a lack of connection between Latinx students. “Latinx is an ethnicity, not a race, people might think they aren’t Latin enough, which isn’t true. We want to help the org effectively validate all identities,” Ramirez said. Sousa For Sousa, this lack of representation stretches to all parts of the Mount Holyoke community. “[There is a] lack of diversity within the faculty, specifically Latinx faculty. In addition, the Latino Studies department is underfunded and understaffed,” Sousa said.