Hispanic Heritage Month is a hit with students on the Hilltop

Janelle Fassi, Crier staff

The Modern Language Department and the Intercultural Center teamed up for Hispanic Heritage Month, which celebrates the history and culture of Hispanic-Americans and their ancestors who fought for independence. This national celebration lasts from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

Although Hispanic Heritage month is ending, students walk away with a greater appreciation for Latino culture.

Wayne Currie, director of the Father Jonathan Center for Intercultural Learning and Inclusion, kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month with Multicultural Day on Sept. 22 in the lower quad. The event featured 20 student-led tables from all over the globe, both Spanish-speaking and non Spanish-speaking. Among the countries were Puerto Rico, Mexico, Jamaica, Germany, Nepal, France, China, and Lebanon. Each year, Mexico is the most popular table.

Multicultural Day is Currie’s personal favorite during Hispanic Heritage Month.

“It was a huge success…There was a steady crowd, good food, good attendance, and lots of positive emails,” Currie says.

That’s not all the Intercultural Center has worked on this past month. Their goal was to host one event each week, and they have certainly achieved that goal.

“We never stop here,” Currie says with a laugh.

In addition to the Modern Language Department, one of the Intercultural Center’s biggest allies this month was Campus Ministry, which organized a Spanish Mass on Oct. 2.

There are plenty of interactive events as well, such as the “Make Your Own Pinata” workshop Oct. 10 and the two Latin Groove nights on campus. Both dances, Salsa and Bachata, take root in different Latino countries.

The Center will start off with Salsa Madness on Oct. 9, which celebrates Cuban heritage. Following Salsa will be Bachata lessons on Oct. 23, which celebrates Dominican heritage.

He says, Latin Groove will “expose people to different types of dance” and he is excited to be “educating people on different cultures.”

Salsa Madness is a tradition during Hispanic Heritage Month, but students urged Currie to implement Dominican Bachata this year as well.

“We want to bring awareness of all the different cultures. Even if we just have one person I want to respect that.”

The Modern Language Department has been just as busy as the Intercultural Center this month.

Susan Mazzeo, who teaches Spanish 150 and 200 at Saint Anselm, helped to organize and promote the Spanish Film Festival in the Language Resource Center.

The Film Festival helped increase transparency toward the struggles of the Hispanic population. The films covered controversial topics including religious persecution, civil rights, totalitarian regimes, pro-life choices, cultural stereotypes, and different roles of women in society.

Mazzeo says that “several students found that the documentary Clínica de Migrantes was particularly interesting.”

The HBO documentary showcases the faces behind the immigration crisis, as undocumented patients struggle to pay for costly medical bills on what should be considered basic necessities in the United States. Patients in the film are stationed at Puentes de Salud (Bridges of Health) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The clinic describes itself as a non-profit organization promoting the health and wellness of Philadelphia’s Latino immigrant population through “high-quality health care, innovative educational programs and community building.”

After the showing, Dr. Steve Larson, executive director of Puentes de Salud, led a student discussion on the issues displayed in the film. Larson emphasized the country is changing and the immigrant population is expected to grow in the coming years.

Marigen Tapia Learnard, a new faculty member of the College and instructor in Modern Languages, was equally thrilled on the turnout of the film.

She says, “we were so full in Dana, there literally was not an empty chair. The film was an eye-opener to so many as many were not aware that our undocumented population is literally everywhere here in the United States.”

She adds that the film also dispels stereotypes towards the immigrant population:

“Contrary to what many believe, they are not receiving government assistance, they are on their own for medical help [and] looking for clinics where they can pay cash.”

The student response of Hispanic Heritage Month has surpassed expectations, which promotes inclusivity for all students on the Hilltop.

Each year, Mazzeo looks forward to showing students how Hispanic heritage is “interwoven” into American culture.

Considering the anger behind the immigration debate, Hispanic Heritage Month is a way for the voiceless to suddenly have a voice, fostering a greater understanding of Latin Americans.

Hispanic Heritage Month hits close to home for many students and faculty, particularly Learnard.

“For me personally, having been raised in a bilingual, bicultural family, my father is from San Antonio and my mother is from Chile, I feel like Hispanic Heritage Month lets me share a bit of my background.”

The entire month is a great learning and teaching experience, as more students and faculty are open to sharing what Hispanic culture means to them and their families.

For those who missed out on any of these opportunities, don’t fear, el Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) begins on Halloween. The Modern Language Department will surely have some tricks and treats up their sleeve.

At Saint Anselm, inclusion is anything but spooky!