Hispanic Heritage Month kicked off on Wednesday with Bienvenida at the Cesar Chavez monument in the Peace Garden, celebrating Mexican Independence Day.
Bienvenida, presented by the Latino Faculty and Staff Association with the help of many student organizations, served as an introduction for a slew of Hispanic Heritage Month events that run from September to Oct. 15.
“One of the purposes for this event is to welcome all students but in particular we want to welcome Latino students,” said Victor Torres, committee organizer and president of the Latina/o Faculty & Staff Association. “We want to make sure they feel comfortable here, that they feel connected to the university, that’s a key thing for them to be successful”.
Bienvenida featured an information fair, music and refreshments and performances by the folklorico group, Los Danzantes de Aztlán. Students also received information about the cultural diversity the Fresno State campus has.
“Fresno State is a Hispanic-serving institution,” Raúl Moreno, coordinator of the Dream Outreach Center and member of the Latino Faculty and Staff Association. “That means that we have a high number of Latinos on campus, and we have to celebrate our heritage. Today, September 16, is the independence of many Latin American countries, not just Mexico.”
Moreno said Latino students have a lot to benefit from these events.
“Today, we have more than 30 student organizations and support programs here at Fresno State where the students are getting information to get more involved and to get more support to be successful at Fresno State,” said Moreno.
This month is also important for President Joseph Castro, who is of Mexican heritage.
“My great-grandfather immigrated here about 100 years ago, and my grandfather came when he was about 2 years old in 1921,” said Castro.
Castro also mentioned that he is proud of the fact that there is a Cesar Chavez monument on campus to also commemorate the month.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla took the time to say some encouraging and motivational words. Padilla is currently the only statewide elected official that’s a Latino.
“You’ve done a lot of things to get here today, now you got to make sure that it’s not just an opportunity to attend here but an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to grow, develop, succeed and graduate,” said Alex Padilla Secretary of State.
Stephanie Martínez, a member of Los Danzantes de Aztlán, said being a part of this celebration helps in representing Hispanic culture.
“It helps me keep my culture alive,” Martinez said. “It helps to show other generations to keep their culture alive too.”
Fresno State has also received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association to raise the presence of Latino history.
This grant will bring “Latino Americans: 500 Years of History” to Fresno State, as well as fund events such as the screening of “Foreigners in Their Own Land,” a free public event that will take place September 19 at Arte Américas.
To see the full list of the Hispanic Heritage events, visit the Fresno State Cross Cultural and Gender Center website.
Thea Napolitano contributed to the reporting of this story.