Students to celebrate latin culture, heritage

Reggae and salsa music will ring out as Northern Kentucky University’s celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month dances into full swing with a Reggeaton Party Sept. 17. The dance is one of many campus events recognizing the culture and contributions of the United States’ fastest growing minority.

Between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15 thousands of people across the country will celebrate Hispanic culture. Los Angeles, the city with the largest Hispanic population outside of Latin America, will kick-off NHHM with a gathering on the steps of City Hall. The event will commemorate Mexico’s Independence Day on Sept. 15.

In Cincinnati, Su Casa Hispanic Ministries will start the festivities early with Hispanic Fest 2005 on Sept. 9 and 10 at the Hamilton Country Fairgrounds. NKU will have its own kick off reception Sept. 16 to begin a month of activities and events designed to celebrate the Latino culture on campus.

The focal point of this year’s events will be Christina Garcia, acclaimed author of “Dreaming in Cuban,” who will lecture Oct. 7 in Greaves Concert Hall. She’s the first Cuban-born speaker to lecture at NKU.

“She’s a great speaker who truly enjoys talking to college students because this is the perfect place to convey her vision of what America is like and her journey as an immigrant,” said Leo Calderon, director of Latino Student Affairs.

The Latino Student Union y Amigos, a campus organization, is also very involved in NHHM. It’s sponsoring the Reggeaton Party and invited representatives from neighboring universities and high schools.

“This year will be a lot different than last, because this year we’re trying to incorporate both the campus and the community to bring more educational awareness about Hispanic culture,” said Christina Garrett, LSU y Amigos treasurer and social chair.

Melissa Roman, president of the LSU y Amigos, agrees and hopes that NHHM will “take away the stereotypes about other cultures, as well as helping international students practice their English.”

The group is hoping that some of the NHHM events bring attention to 9-year-old Lupita Velasco Zacarias. A native of Guatemala, she suffers from spina bifida, a birth defect that causes Lupita’s feet and legs to severely twist out of position. She’s receiving therapy at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

LSU y Amigos is paying for her distance calls to her family in Guatemala and the installation of her telephone. A booth will be set up at the Reggeaton Party for anyone interested in donating.

While cases like Zacarias’ spotlight humanitarian needs, the focal point of NKU’s NHHM is cultural diversity.

“If you provide students with opportunities like these, it validates our rich Latino heritage,” Calderon said. He hopes that NKU “will continue leading efforts by celebrating and embracing multiculturalism.”

Garrett agrees. “It is all about multiculturalism,” she said. “We have to recognize that even though we all have differences, we’re all very much the same.”