Fresno State celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with “La Bienvenida” event

Student clubs and organizations were tabling at the "La Bienvenida" event on Sept. 16. (Miranda Adams/The Collegian)

¡Feliz Mes de la Herencia Hispana!

For the Spanish learners, happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

Fresno State kicked off the celebration with “La Bienvenida” on Sept. 16. The annual event, which translates to ‘The Welcome’, is hosted by the Latina/o Faculty and Staff Association (LFSA). It featured live music, information booths and words of wisdom from a few keynote speakers.

“[Hispanic Heritage Month] allows us to celebrate the roots, the contributions, and the culture of an important segment of our population that has contributed to the vitality of the United States throughout its history,” said Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval.

Rodrigo Gomez, the LFSA Activities Chair, explained that the month of festivities is much more than just a celebration. 

“People say, ‘we can always tell who you are by the type of food, the type of culture, and the type of folklore that you have,'” he said. “Keeping those traditions alive, wherever you’re from, is what keeps the essence of our ethnic backgrounds alive.”

This year “La Bienvenida” coincided with Mexico’s independence day. However, celebrations across the Americas began Sept. 15, the date Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua declared their independence from Spain. 

“La Bienvenida” was held in the Fresno State Peace Garden next to the commemorative statue of César Chávez. President Jiménez-Sandoval interprets the commission as representative of the movement from the fields to the university, and from the university to becoming leaders within the community.

“If we know where we’ve come from and the sacrifices that were made, we will know how to value the present and value its potential for the future even more,” he said. 

“I can remember coming home from the university, getting off the train, my brother picking me up, and then getting to our place. My dad was out in the field tending tomatoes. As soon as he saw me, he said, ‘Nice to see you, my son, this is for you’. And it was this perfect tomato.

“In that moment I realized that my father’s hard work, his honest lifestyle and his contribution to this region through the economy of his work, really gave me the roots to be where I am today.” 

Many Fresno State students share a similar background with the president. According to enrollment numbers from fall 2020, over 50% of the student population is Hispanic. 

“My parents moved here from Mexico a few years before I was born,” Fresno State sophomore Luci Vargas said. “I love that here I can celebrate that part of who I am and who they are.”

Throughout the month of celebrations, Fresno State will be hosting multiple events, both physically and virtually.

The first virtual event, “16 de Septiembre: Contextualizando la Historia e Impacto,” was also held. The presentation by Enseñamos en el Valle Central explored how Spanish American history has and continues to shape race relations. For those who missed the event, a recording is available online through their Facebook page.

“History allows us to explore our identities,” said Karla Bretado, social studies teacher at Washington Academic Middle School in Sanger. “When we learn history, we get empowered, we’re liberated, we go back to our roots and we take back our language.”

Hispanic Heritage Month offers an opportunity to explore and better understand the diverse and unique cultures that make up the Spanish, Latin and Caribbean worlds. 

Gomez applauded Fresno State for its role in teaching him about his own history.

“I started taking a lot of Chicano Latin American Studies at Fresno State [when I was a student],” he said. “It was then that I really started to understand my roots, to really understand who I was.” 

President Jiménez-Sandoval noted that this is not only personally empowering, but also contributes to societal growth.

“Maintaining our cultures, maintaining our different traditions, and keeping festivities alive ultimately makes our entire community richer,” he said.

Join in on the festivities by taking part in the upcoming Hispanic Heritage Month campus activities.

Events at the Henry Madden Library begin Tuesday, Sept. 21, at 2 p.m. with International Coffee Hour. This week, the hour-long presentation by Study Abroad/International Programs will explore Costa Rica.

The celebration will pick up the pace this Friday with the Bulldog Fiesta. Food trucks, live music and performances by traditional Mexican banda and mariachi bands start at 3 p.m. at the Bulldog Stadium.  

Next Tuesday, Oct. 5, the Cross Cultural and Gender Center Latino/a Programs and Services will be hosting a maceta (flower pot) painting workshop. They will also be holding an interactive art installation beginning Oct. 6 where students can share how they have been affected by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Additional events will be held throughout the months of September and October. The Cross Cultural and Gender Center’s website has a full list of upcoming workshops, panels and discussions. All events are free, but pre-registration may be required due to limited space.

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