Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with the Empowered Latino Union

Story by Paige Sheffield
Photo Courtesy of Empowered Latino Union Facebook Page

Maricella Reyes, president of the Empowered Latino Union, said there’s diversity on campus, even though she thinks it’s hard to see sometimes – she believes recognizing heritages on campus helps students with multicultural backgrounds feel more comfortable.

The Importance of Hispanic Heritage Month
One of the heritage months recognized on Central Michigan University’s campus, Hispanic Heritage Month, includes a series of events that begin Sept. 14 and will continue through Oct. 13.

“For Hispanic Heritage Month, I think the main goal and purpose is to basically educate the campus – that being staff, faculty and students – on the heritage of Hispanic and Latino and Latina people and their culture, whether it be food, music, issues, social injustices, dance. Everything that encompasses our culture,” Reyes said.

Jennifer Salazar, vice president of the Empowered Latino Union, is Mexican, but has never celebrated Cinco de Mayo though many people associate it with Mexicans and refer to it as “Cinco de drinko”, she said.

She thinks Hispanic Heritage Month can help bring awareness to students who make comments like these.

“[Cinco de Mayo] is more of a local thing for the town of Puebla, so I think going to Hispanic Heritage Month events will bring more awareness to the students and it will make them more competent when it comes to talking about cultural backgrounds,” she said. “In a way, it will allow them to respect diversity as well.”

Welcoming and Unifying Students through Events
The Latino/a Welcome Back event will be hosted in the Center for Inclusion and Diversity Thursday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m.

Leticia Mosqueda, secretary of the Empowered Latino Union, said the goal of the Empowered Latino Union is to unify the existing Latino population on campus, and this event aims to unify the campus and inform people about what the organization is.

The event will feature food, music and the opportunity to meet and connect with Latino/a students and learn about their experiences. It’s not exclusive to Hispanic and Latino students.

“I would say [the goal of these events] is just to get campus more culturally aware,” Mosqueda said. “Also, to help other Latino students kind of find a home away from home because when you come to CMU, I feel like you don’t really know what to join or anything, and I think it’s always good to find something that relates to you.”

Learning about Culture through Food
Salazar said one of the events she’s most looking forward to is the HHM Food Taster at Wesley Foundation on Sept. 21. Because there are so many different cultures in the Hispanic and Latino community, she said, it’s difficult to get a taste of everything.

“I’m Mexican, so I’m pretty aware of the Mexican culture and food, but when it comes to Puerto Rican or Venezuelan, I’m like, ‘I have no idea’ so it grabs my attention because even though we are all part of one culture, our cultures are so different,” she said. “It excites me to see it all come together.”

Educating Others through Film and Dance
On Sept. 22 and Sept. 29, there will be HHM movie showings at the Wesley Foundation.

“I think these will make more people realize that it’s not always just black and white on this campus and there’s a lot of issues that need to be recognized, and I think those movies really portray that well,” Mosqueda said.

Reyes loves to dance, so she’s looking forward to the Baila! event being put on by her sorority, Sigma Lambda Gamma, at the Student Activity Center on October 13.

“We’re going to be having salsa, merengue and just a bunch of different dances that I’ve never even heard of,” she said.

Mosqueda said they planned this event because they wanted to offer something fun that would also teach people about culture.

Hispanic Heritage Month for All Students
Salazar encourages students to branch out and get out of their comfort zones.

“[Attending these events] is not just a cultural learning experience – it’s also more of a personal, ‘hey, I could meet my next best friend at this,’” she said. “You never really know.”

Mosqueda said she thinks it’s good that many professors have their students go to diversity events on campus because it brings people to the events who wouldn’t otherwise attend or who weren’t already interested.

“Even if they are going for those reasons, they’re still learning about another culture, which I think is very good and I’m glad that teachers do that a lot,” Mosqueda said. “I guess I’m just excited that everyone gets to gain more knowledge about the culture.”

She said it makes her feel good that CMU has these events because when she came to CMU, she felt as though it wasn’t very diverse.

She thinks events like these can give students a sense of understanding.

“Then, maybe they’ll want to experience different parts of the culture, like Latin dancing or the language, and maybe they’ll want to go study in a Latin country or something,” she said. “I think it will expose them to all the things they can learn about it.”

For more information, check out a complete listing of Hispanic Heritage Month events at CMU.