Hispanic Heritage Month brings students together

Only four more events are left to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at Fresno State this year.

Seven events already have taken place, including multi-cultural performances sponsored by the United Sorority and Fraternity Council and a CineCulture film presentation of “La Americana,” a documentary about undocumented immigrants.

Still to come is a mariachi performance by Mariachi Estudiantil del Valle, a Fresno State student group, and three Latino guest speakers who will discuss topics ranging from media representations to health and welfare in the community.

Jovana Lopez is a Fresno State graduate student who works at the Central Valley Cultural Heritage Institute on campus, which sponsors most of the Heritage Month events. She said she’s most excited about the upcoming mariachi performance.

“I think it will definitely be the most entertaining event,” she said. “It’s a lighthearted way to learn about another’s heritage.”

Beatriz Herrera is the Fresno State student directing the mariachi. She said she hopes the performance broadens other students’ horizons to various cultures in their community.

“Everyone loves music,” she said. “It would be nice to use that to bring more awareness— to let other people know that we are students here, and this is our culture.”

Professor Alex Espinoza, department chair of the Chicano and Latin American Studies program, said that events like the mariachi performance are important for people to accept the diversity around them and to take pride in whom they are.

“We oftentimes don’t have an opportunity to really acknowledge and express the wide variety of cultures, ideas and beliefs that we have,” Espinoza said. “I think exploring culture is important because it gives us all an opportunity to take pride in who we are and where we come from and what makes us unique.”

Espinoza defined heritage as the “ties that bind one to their culture, their tradition and their identity.”

He added that exploring heritage is especially important at Fresno State, where the Latino population is growing.

“We have one of the largest concentrations of Latino students compared to other campuses,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time that we, as a campus community, realize that the very face of our school has changed. And I think we have to start recognizing and celebrating that.”

Lopez agreed. She said she takes pride in the Latino population at Fresno State and is glad that Hispanic Heritage Month gives students like her an opportunity to share their culture.

“A lot of students here, they think all Hispanics have the same culture and customs,” Lopez said. “But we are way different. Our foods are different, our language is different; the way we speak is different. All of us can get educated by these kinds of events.”

Espinoza said that though the events of Hispanic Heritage Month can certainly highlight the way students are different from each other, he hopes they will make people realize their similarities.

“I think there are a lot of things that connect us as humans,” he said. “Me, as a Latino, sharing my culture with someone who is outside of it gives me an opportunity to say, ‘You know that tradition you have in your family? We have something really similar, except we might do it this way.’ Exploring cultural variations definitely gives us an opportunity to look at our similarities.”

Upcoming Hispanic Heritage Month event details are as follows: Mariachi Estudiantil del Valle will perform on Thursday at noon in the University Student Union south patio. That same hour, Professor Angelica Muro will speak about visual culture, media representations and minority identities in the Alice Peters Auditorium.

On Tuesday, Oct. 8, speaker Corinne Florez, who has her master’s degree in social work, will talk about child welfare in the community. This event will take place in Room 3212 of the Henry Madden Library at noon.

The final event will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 16, at 9 a.m. in Room 118 of the North Gym. There, Dr. Pedro Rafael Aragon Kuri will discuss health and well-being of the Latino population.

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