Latinx Heritage Month events highlight identity and community

by Gabriel Onate | 10/18/17 10:32am

Latinx Heritage Month has been celebrating the Latinx community and identity on campus since mid-September and will continue hosting events until Nov. 1 despite decreased funding from the College, according to Latinx Heritage Month Planning Committee members Rosa Mendoza ’20 and Juan Laínez Iscoa ’20. This year’s theme is “our strength lives in our roots” with the goal of uniting everyone into a community motivated to push forward and proudly embrace their own culture, Mendoza said.

Mendoza said the committee has been planning events for the Latinx Heritage Month since last spring. Latinx Heritage Month, she said, opened with a kickoff barbeque on Sept. 15 and will close with a “Día de los Muertos” celebration on Nov. 1. Día de los Muertos, which is known as “Day of the Dead” in English, consists of commemorating family members and relatives who have passed away by offering them traditional food on colorful altars.

Each year, Hispanic Heritage Month, which is synonymous with Latinx Heritage Month, is celebrated throughout the U.S., honoring the heritage and culture of all Latinx students. The noun “Latinx” refers to an umbrella of terms that Latinx community members use interchangeably. It is meant to incorporate all identities tied with Latin American and or Caribbean cultures while remaining gender inclusive.

Throughout the period, Latinx Heritage Month at Dartmouth expresses Latinx cultures and ideas through food, music, open discussions and panels.

Sometimes, Mendoza added, events are planned and hosted with other organizations and communities on campus.

“There’s a lot of collaboration, not just between Latinx organizations, because that’s one of the things that makes heritage month not just a Latinx event — it’s open to the community,” Mendoza said. “We’re trying to build more intersectionality between other communities.”

Iscoa said he has been working with other communities on events such as a discussion with the LGBTQ community on Latinx students that identify themselves as members of the LGBTQ community.

Intern for Latinx Partnerships for Success Yesenia Mejia ’18 said despite not being part of the planning committee this year, she is still able to help plan other events for the Latinx community as well as work with other interns within the Latinx community. Latinx Partnerships for Success includes a first-year cohort that helps first-year Latinx students form a network with other students in their class and to find professional development opportunities. Mejia is currently helping to bring an event, “Poderosas y Peligrosas,” or “Powerful and Dangerous,” to fruition. According to Mejia, it will target female-identifying Latinx students.

Mejia said she has been attending events like the one she is planning since her first year, and she said they are designed to be “inclusive” and “relevant to this new generation of Latinx students.” However, she added that it’s a challenge to keep a balance between intersectionality, inclusivity and celebration in each event.

“Not all of it has to be lectures and panels and things that require people to be very vulnerable,” Mejia explained. “It’s also like a mix of celebration, having fun and enjoying other people’s culture.”

Laínez Iscoa added that he personally stands for inclusivity and intersectionality for all members of the Latinx community, regardless of their views or backgrounds.

“One thing that I’m trying to change personally [in events during Latinx Heritage Month] is to just be more accepting of conservative views in the Latinx community,” Laínez Iscoa said, explaining that some Latinx members feel or may be outcast from the main group because of their political opinions.

“People don’t fit into boxes,” Laínez Iscoa added.

Emily Martinez ’21, an intern for acting assistant dean and advisor to Latinx students Renata Baptista, said working with Baptista and other students has provided her with an opportunity to get involved with the Latinx community even though she has just started college.

Despite being new to the entire process, Martinez said she was entrusted with organizing two major events, “Latinx at Dartmouth and Dartmouth at Home,” which was held on Sept. 29 and focused on the presence of Latinx students on campus as well as talking about college life with one’s parents and “Something My Father Would Do,” a dinner discussion on Oct. 10 about masculinity in the Latinx community.

“It was hard because I was the only [first-year] in the room,” she said, talking about her experiences planning events with students and staff who were already involved. “But after the kickoff barbeque, I noticed how close of a community they are, and how they were welcoming to me.”

Martinez said the College itself had so far been supportive of their work, but at the same time said its funding for Latinx events decreased this year. This reduction has impacted the number of events that could be hosted, and Martinez said she is not sure why the College took this course of action.

Laínez Iscoa said he was also uncertain why the College reduced its funding, but added that the College may not prioritize funding Latinx Heritage Month because it believes that the Latinx community is already well established on campus.

“At the end of the day, isn’t [the existence of the Latinx community] what the College wants?” Laínez Iscoa said.

Mejia added that the planning committee has to apply for funding each year to be able to pay for Latinx Heritage Month events.

“It’s like the administration, or the institute in general, is telling us that you have to put in labor, provide evidence as to why your events are important,” she said.

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence said the organizers of Latinx Heritage Month received sponsorship from over 15 areas such as academic departments and house communities, but did not specify the details about their budget.