The Collegian
Saturday, June 25, 2022

Viewing concludes Latino-Hispanic Heritage Celebration

Students gathered in the Brown-Alley Room last Wednesday to watch the premiere of the CNN documentary "Latino in America," a film that takes a look at the effects of the increasing Latino presence in America.

The event was hosted by the Spanish and Latino Student Alliance (SALSA).

"The documentary is about how the number of Latinos in America is reshaping the demographic, as well as what it means to be American," said senior Keylin Mejia Tavarez, a SALSA member. "It's important because the demographic at UR is changing too."

The viewing opened with a discussion led by Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Juan A. Lizama. Lizama emigrated from El Salvador as a teenager, and has been working at the Times-Dispatch covering many Hispanic community issues.

Lizama opened the discussion by asking the crowd what they felt about the terms Latino or Hispanic. First-year student Jolmi Minaya Suriel said he preferred the word Latino.

"I feel as though the term Hispanic was put upon people by the U.S. in an attempt to cluster a group of people they didn't know," he said. "But the term Latino came from us, and so it was more like the people named themselves."

The viewing and discussion were held less than a week after the close of the month-long University of Richmond Latino-Hispanic Heritage Celebration, which was put on for the first time this year. The celebration, hosted by SALSA with the help of the Office for Multicultural Affairs, paralleled National Hispanic Heritage month, which ran from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

National Hispanic Heritage month was chosen to start on Sept. 15 because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Tavarez said the organization had been trying to hold the celebration since her first year at Richmond, when SALSA was reinstated as a campus organization. The celebration is already popular on surrounding college campuses, such as Virginia Commonwealth University, which has been hosting the event annually for several years, she said.

The University of Richmond combined with VCU to offer bus trips to Washington, D.C., to be part of the start of the Smithsonian Institution's Hispanic Heritage month series on Sept. 12.

The campus event officially opened on Sept. 15 with a dinner celebration at the Heilman Dining Center, which featured mostly Latin American cuisine, as well as a parade of flags and SALSA members exhibiting dances from their home countries. Other events throughout the month included several discussions in the Think Tank, Latin American film viewings, and festivals held in the forum such as the Salsa and Latin Dance and Cultural Festival on Sept. 22, which featured the live band BioRitmo.

Many campus organizations and departments were involved in the celebration, including Boatwright Memorial Library, which featured decorations and displays of books with Latin American themes. Much of the funding came from the Office of Multicultural Affairs and other departments, Tavarez said, as well as several local organizations and businesses.

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Tavarez said that the SALSA had started organizing the event over a year ago, and they were happy with how the event turned out.

"In general, I would like the school to continue to embrace other cultures. As a senior, I noticed that the pattern when I entered school was a dichotomy between black and white, but now other minorities are entering and changing it, and the school is embracing the change," she said.

Contact staff writer Margaret Finucane at margaret.finucane@richmond.edu

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