Latinx Heritage Month celebrated during October

by Paulomi Rao | 10/14/16 12:31am

Latinx Heritage Month will celebrate Latinx identity on campus throughout the month of October. The theme of this year is resilient identities and focuses specifically on eliminating the divide between various demographics and the Latinx community.

The Latinx Heritage Month Planning Committee have been planning the events since the winter, Yesenia Mejia ’18 said. 

Across the country, Latinx Heritage Month recognizes and commemorates the celebration of Latinx heritage. The noun “Latinx” is used to include all identities, eliminating any gender discriminating stereotypes.

Over the next three weeks, the events will highlight the Latinx community through food, fashion, art and discussion. The celebration will conclude on Nov. 4 with a Latinx Heritage Month Gala complete with a performance by Jimmy Jorge and the Latin Express Band — a band that celebrates the Latinx culture. 

“This year’s goal is to highlight the multiple, intersectional identities that exist here on campus within the Latinx community,” said Dennise Hernandez ’17, a member of the Latinx task force. 

Dean of the College Rebecca Biron started the committee last year to address systematic concerns that alumni and students brought to the administration related to the Latinx community on campus.

Hernandez added that she hopes that this year’s events will include programming that connects the Latinx community with indigenous, LGBTQIA and Latin Caribbean communities.

Hernandez also hopes this month’s celebration will reach a broader audience across campus. Despite current support by the Office of Pluralism and Leadership’s new assistant dean and advisor to Latinx students, Patty Mendoza, many events in past years have been attended by the same handful of students. 

“It’s a really beautiful thing that we, as a planning committee, have dedicated our time into community building,” Mejia said. “But at the same time, it’s difficult to celebrate our identity and be exhausted in investing emotion into something that is personal if people don’t show up. It puts you in a vulnerable place.”

Students interested in being leaders in the Latinx community usually participate on the Latinx Advisory Board, which serves as a resource, support and council for the Dartmouth community. 

“By being involved in the Latinx community in various capacities since sophomore year, I think the community here is really unique in its ability to give back,” Hernandez said. “Helping out people in whatever they might need has been really important for both myself and other students to build a sense of home that is rooted in our culture here on campus.”

Valentina Garcia Gonzalez ’19, who serves as the Latinx community student coordinator at OPAL, echoed a similar perspective. Upon her arrival on campus last fall, Gonzalez realized that the support she had anticipated from the community was not present at Dartmouth, partially because of the lack of resources provided by the College.

This year, Gonzalez became the student coordinator at OPAL because she wanted to facilitate change directly within the College. In the past, she has organized discussions during which she hopes participants felt encouraged to talk about issues the Latinx community faces. Gonzalez also looks to get more men involved in leadership roles, especially in helping to plan events this month. 

“The leadership of the community is almost all women and it leaves many upset and disappointed,” Gonzalez said. “In the past, it’s been mostly women exciting change and men just following suit. We need to change that.”  

Hernandez, who also serves as the treasurer for La Alianza Latina — a social, political, and academic organization that advocates for Latinx students on campus — has seen some growth with campus involvement in the last few years.

“We really want to be involved with people who turn ideas into action,” Hernandez said. “While OPAL is headed to a more institutional form of support, the fact of the matter is our events are highly, highly driven on student labor, time and effort.”

Gonzalez emphasized similar goals, hoping OPAL would expand its allocated resources.

“The Latinx community doesn’t need an official office to give us power, the students have the power,” Hernandez said. “We just need some resources and we shouldn’t have to be begging for them.”