With educators and organizations available to offer their knowledge, students have the opportunity to learn about fellow Aggies and participate in events during Hispanic Heritage Month.
Spanning from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to reflect on the achievements and culture that Hispanics have contributed to the United States. The celebration started out as National Hispanic Heritage Week, which was signed into law in 1968 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. It was later made into a month-long commemoration in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan.
Unlike other months that celebrate different minority groups, Hispanic Heritage Month begins halfway through the month. The date coincides with the independence days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, closely followed by Mexico on Sept. 16 and Chile on Sept. 18.
Vita Tijerina, psychology senior and president of the Mexican Student Association, said Hispanic Heritage Month casts a spotlight on many different Hispanic cultures. Tijerina said that the MSA welcomes Mexicans and non-Mexicans, Hispanics and non-Hispanics to promote the Mexican culture.
“It’s the month where, not just MSA, but other orgs get to come out and show what different Hispanic cultures have to provide,” Tijerina said. “Our main goal is to create a home away from home. We are a social org, so we are big on doing socials, participating in community service events and intramurals like soccer, volleyball and flag football. We are well-rounded in each aspect.”
Tijerina said Hispanic culture goes beyond a month and welcomed students to events throughout the year. Tijerina said that there is an interest in changing what is being presented to keep things new.
“Last fall, we had Painting with Frida, everyone came and mimicked paintings by Frida Kahlo,” Tijerina said. “We try to be as creative as possible and not do recurring events because we want to use the month to show different aspects of the Mexican culture. [But] it’s important to understand even though we do have this month for us, MSA, and I’m sure other orgs, take up all the year, not just this month.”
Hispanic students whose families are of Latin American descent are able to join Latino Logradores, a freshman student success program. Armando Escalera, an electrical engineering junior, said a key feature of the program is its mentorship system.
“They pair us up, and it’s two mentors for a group of mentees,” Escalera said. “The mentees are equally distributed and we call it a ‘familia.’ The whole mentor system is to have someone to reach out to, or if they need anything on campus, because it can be pretty hard starting college, especially for those that come away from home.”
Computer engineering junior Daniel Peralta said the group is available to struggling Latino freshman, who are always welcome to use their resources.
“Latino Logradores takes a lot of pride making sure every mentee feels included,” Peralta said. “So we’re always welcoming other people to join. If there are freshmen out there who need space or feel like they need help with something, they can always reach out to Latino and gain the resources they need.”
As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, a celebration called Caliente! will be held on Rudder Plaza on Oct. 2 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., hosted by MSA, the Brazilian Students Association, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and the Omega Delta Phi Fraternity.
“Somos raza y todos nos ayudamos,” Tijerina said.
Paloma Serrano, Ph.D. student and graduate teaching assistant in the Hispanic studies department, said Hispanic Heritage Month allows people to look at the Hispanic history that has always formed part of the United States.
“We celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month to honor the United States citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, Caribbean, Central and Latin America, ” Serrano said. “This country has always had Hispanic heritage. For example, we have Jose Antonio Navarro, who contributed to Texas independence. Even George Washington couldn’t have been able to get rid of the British if it wasn’t for Bernardo de Galvez, who was a military [leader] from Spain.”
Serrano said many of the United States’ county and state names come from Spanish origins and highlight the enduring Hispanic culture.
“Hispanics have always been here,” Serrano said. “You have states like Nevada, Colorado, Montana, Florida, California. … [Also] Brazos County, because of the Brazos River, which was originally named ‘Los Brazos de Dios,’ so ‘The Arms of God.’”