CMU Is Fired Up For Hispanic Heritage Month

Story by Michael Piwowarski

In spite of a global pandemic, Central Michigan University continues to make efforts to honor the diversity and cultures of their community.

Alejandro Salais, peer advisor for Multicultural Advancement and Cofer scholars, said Hispanic Heritage Month exists to acknowledge those of the Latinx community. The term “Latinx” is a gender neutral term used for people of Latin American descent.

“The Latinx community in America has been historically underrepresented and discriminated against, just like a lot of other ethnic and racial minority groups in the US,” Salais said.

Wade Tomson, assistant director of Multicultural Academic Student Services at CMU, echoes this sentiment, and elaborates that CMU also seeks to educate those who don’t take a part in multicultural events to help them get a better understanding of their peers.

“It’s important that the university work towards making all students feel welcome and at home while they’re here on this campus, or even taking classes remotely,” Tomson said. “They need to feel that CMU is a place where they belong.”

In past years, Hispanic Heritage Month events at CMU included food tasters, Latinx discussion nights, painting events and demonstrations, among others.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic prevents these in-person events from happening, CMU is still working to acknowledge Hispanic culture in the campus community through a series of virtual events on Webex, including watch parties, webinars and cooking demonstrations.

Salais assists in planning events for the Multicultural Advancement Student Services office. When COVID-19 became a pandemic in March, a committee of Latinx people was started on campus to help plan virtual events, aiming to engage people in a virtual setting.

“I loved working with the committee, because it really showed […] how collaboration was effective. If it’s just like two people coming up with events, […] it’s hard to brainstorm,” Salais said.

Salais is president of Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity at CMU. Having been resurrected at CMU in 2019 after ten years of dormancy, SLB is celebrating its first Hispanic Heritage Month this year.

SLB aims to host at least one cultural event per heritage month: including Hispanic Heritage, Native American Heritage, Middle Eastern Heritage and so forth.

The first virtual HHM event on Tuesday Sept. 22 was about the East LA walkouts of 1968 and was attended by 72 people.

“It’s a very important, significant yet very important part of the civil rights movement. It’s not something that’s often taught in American schools,” Salasi said.

The next event, coming up on Oct. 15, is titled “The Various Dialects of the Spanish Language.” The goal of this event will be to educate people on the linguistic diversity within the Spanish community.

“There’s some words and phrases that are common among Mexicans, that Puerto Ricans wouldn’t understand, and vice versa,” Salais said. “I love analyzing languages, so I’m very passionate about these issues. I’m really happy to have this opportunity […] to express these very important topics and spread awareness to them.”

Salais hopes that the Hispanic Heritage Month events will continue to be very engaging and continue to remind people of the importance of inclusion and diversity, in spite of this year’s events being 100% virtual via WebEx.

“It’s important to show and express the beauty of our culture and to show that our presence in the United States is not something that should be taken for granted,” Salais said.

Upcoming events for the remainder of Hispanic Heritage Month can be found at CMU’s online event calendar.