Known as a Hispanic Serving Institute (HSI), at Los Medanos College, there are opportunities for Hispanic, Latinx and Chicano students to connect to their community through the Puente program and club, but many people may not be aware of the existence of Hispanic Heritage Month.
It’s a month-long celebration of culture most people may have only briefly heard of when they were young. Hispanic Heritage Month first began as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968. Then, under President Ronald Reagan, the celebration was expanded to a 30-day period enacted into law in 1988.
Although the name suggests it takes place during the course of one specific month, it is actually observed within two, beginning Sept. 15 and ending Oct.15.
According to hispanicheritagemonth.gov, this is because Sept. 15 marks the anniversary for independence of many Latin American countries such as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and 18. Additionally, while the United States recognizes Columbus Day, many Latin American countries and Mexico observe Dia De La Raza, the Day of the Race, which serves as a reminder of the struggles of indigenous people, falls within this period on Oct. 12.
At LMC however, the reason why Hispanic culture isn’t as talked about during this time of year is not due to negligence. According to Puente Coordinator Stacey Miller, Puente has wanted to put on an event, but has found it harder to plan because it takes place at the beginning of the school year.
“For this semester we were not able to get anything together … it’s hard to organize when you have a new group of students coming in,” said Miller. “Next year it’s our goal to get something going for Hispanic Heritage Month.”
However, according to Puente Club Adviser Melina Rodriguez, the club, in conjunction with the society for advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, has had a taco sale and is also planning to decorate their table as well as serve nachos, horchata and Mexican candies on Club Day Oct. 5 as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.
One of the other struggles comes from people’s lack of awareness of the month in general.
“To be honest, I cannot think of any events that were ‘specifically’ for the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, unfortunately. But that is why we can change that and help each other be aware of the month and why we celebrate it,” said Puente Club Adviser Melina Rodriguez.
MESA director Nicole Trager believes the lack of knowledge of it comes from not being as advertised, as it should be.
“I think that [Hispanic Heritage Month] should be celebrated and known. I think we should be having more events,” said Trager. “It’s really important people know about it, recognize it, study the culture and broaden their horizons … It really impacts your life to learn about other people’s lives.”
In addition to learning about Hispanic Heritage Month, Miller also emphasized the importance of learning about cultures year round.
“I think that we have a responsibility to learn about everybody,” said Miller. “I don’t think we should just narrow our interests to a month … when we’re not developing that awareness throughout the year.”