Hispanic Heritage Month: Building identity and community

Latinx Student Union hosts events for Hispanic Heritage Month. Photo by Jada Gangazha. 

BELINDA PALAGUACHI-RAMIREZ | STAFF REPORTER | bpalaguachiramir@butler.edu 

In 1988, U.S. President Ronald Reagan approved Public Law 100-402, thereby expanding what was previously a week-long celebration to what is now known as Hispanic Heritage Month. Sept. 15, the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, marks the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Sept. 16 and 18 mark the anniversary of the independence of Mexico and Chile, respectively. Oct. 12 marks Dia de La Raza, a day to commemorate the Latin American countries that were conquered by European colonizers. Consequently, the month became a time to recognize and embrace Hispanic culture, community and experiences. 

Hispanic Heritage Month is commonly known for its distinct Hispanic cuisine, colorful dresses and high-spirited parties. Yet, its significance amongst the Hispanic and Latinx community is something that is less often explored. 

One thing is for sure; it is a month full of unmistakable pride that serves as an invitation into the world of “Hispanidad.” 

Madelline De La Torre-Castillo, a Mexican American first-year marketing major, has been dancing traditional Mexican baile folklorico — or traditional Mexican folk dance — with Ballet Folklorico Mosaicos in Indianapolis since 2018. While she partakes in cultural events throughout Indiana and beyond all year round, she still feels a renewed sense of pride when performing at festivals for Hispanic Heritage Month. 

“I love seeing people look at our dresses and stuff and asking questions like, ‘Oh, where is this from?’ and me telling them, ‘Oh, it’s from this day or this day’ because each dance has a history … or a meaning … or a story behind it,” De La Torre-Castillo said. “So, I feel like just showing that to the public makes it all meaningful.” 

De La Torre-Castillo’s love for Hispanic Heritage Month does not end with Mexican culture. In fact, it is the unity displayed within the Latin American community during this month that makes it so impactful. 

“One of the events I went to wasn’t just Mexican culture,” De La Torre-Castillo said. “It was Honduran and Salvadoran and other [Hispanic cultures]. I think it’s so cool that … [on] Sept. 15 a lot of different countries got independence that same day. I think it’s so cool that all of us are brought together on a specific day that [is] meaningful to everybody, and we can all share cultures because we’re all unique and different, but we all speak the same language.” 

While some people eagerly await the commencement of Hispanic Heritage Month each year, others live unaware of its significance. 

Isa Silva, a sophomore arts administration major of Latina descent, admits that while she is an avid fan of Hispanic Heritage Month, it wasn’t until she came to Butler that she was exposed to what this month-long celebration was all about. 

“I remember in high school they’d [say], ‘Oh, it’s the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month; here’s an important Hispanic person’ over the announcements in the morning, but they’d only do it every Wednesday of the month, so then it was [only] four days,” Silva said. “I didn’t really [know] about [Hispanic Heritage Month] until I got to college. And I [realized] this is an actual month that people are celebrating. It’s not just every other … Wednesday of the month.” 

For Silva, discovering Hispanic Heritage Month was a huge jumpstart into her journey of self-discovery. 

“I think it’s really important for people to celebrate who they are,” Silva said. “I went through a huge period of my life where I was like, ‘I have no clue who I am. I feel like I don’t belong anywhere.’ I think that when you give yourself the chance to celebrate yourself and learn about who you are … you’re able to identify with more people.” 

Silva believes that while Hispanic Heritage Month can be a very fun time for the Hispanic and Latinx community, it can also serve as a bridge between Hispanic and Latinx identity and the rest of the world. 

“I just think that there’s a lot of people that need to be given that look into our culture, look into our lives, to be able to understand us and to be able to understand where we came from, and how far we’ve come,” Silva said. 

This glimpse into Hispanic and Latinx heritage is something that the Latinx Student Union strives to bring to Butler’s campus, especially during Hispanic Heritage Month. 

Jocelyn Roman, a Mexican junior biology and sociology double major, is president of Latinx Student Union (LSU) and believes in broadening Butler’s scope of what it means to be part of the Hispanic and Latinx community. 

“I think [community is] a very important pillar of being Hispanic [and] Latino,” Roman said. “So I think that’s kind of where [LSU] come[s] in … We want to help one another and bring each other up. But also, I think as time has … progressed, we’ve … also been like, ‘Okay, we kind of already have our community and we’re set, you know, we help each other.’ I think now, it’s [getting the attention of] people who aren’t familiar [with Hispanic and Latinx culture] and [educating] them [to] branch out and widen their horizon.” 

By getting more people involved in Hispanic Heritage Month events such as Carne Asada, Loteria and Baile Night, LSU hopes that it will lead to a more inclusive environment on Butler’s campus. 

“I think if we can at least get [non-Hispanic and non-Latinx people’s] attention sometime during this month, it goes a long way because hopefully by the end they’ve … learned something, they’ve maybe come to like a new type of food, music, artists, et cetera,” Roman said. “[It allows] everyone who identifies as Hispanic or Latino to … be like, ‘Okay, this is a place for me  … We’re appreciated.’” 

While the Latinx Student Union does everything in its power to bring the Hispanic Heritage Month spirit to life, and the efforts of outside organizations do not go unnoticed, Roman believes there is still plenty of room for improvement. 

It’s been mostly [LSU putting on events for Hispanic Heritage Month], and I think there have been instances where outside organizations like Indiana Latino Expo or Indiana Latino Institute have invited … Butler students [to their events],” Roman said. “So I think that has been helpful, but I think that’s kind of not always the case for people who maybe don’t have transportation to go off campus.” 

Outside of being president of the Latinx Student Union, Roman shares the significance Hispanic Heritage Month holds in her personal life. 

“I was raised [in Mexico during my] younger years, and then I came here to the U.S.,” Roman said. “So I think having that background … [was] always an important part of my identity. And so coming here, I was sort of like, ‘Oh, that isn’t the case for a lot of people’ … I’m kind of an outsider. And I think with Hispanic Heritage Month, it kind of gives us that time where we feel as if we don’t … have to hide or blend in with our environment and just really be proud of who we are, and … our history, our culture and our traditions.” 

All in all, Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of the many aspects of the Hispanic and Latinx community that evokes a sense of pride that transcends language. It is the perfect opportunity to explore the essence of Latin American heritage.


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