Each year National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 nationwide to honor Hispanic and Latin American cultures and society.
“National Hispanic Heritage Month, as a student and Latino/x means pride. Pride from where my family is from, México, and from where others, my extended family and friends (or both) are from,” said Daniel Leon-Barranco (’22) who is minoring in Latinx and Latin American Studies. “It’s a communal experience to celebrate the independence of other Latin American countries.”
The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period. The commemoration starts on September 15, the date that marks the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua (1821), while Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18 (1810).
“I think it is great that we have Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S. and Latinx Heritage Month at Chapman University,” said Dr. Ruben Espinoza, Director of Latinx and Latin American Studies minor. “For me, the month is a time to celebrate the culture, accomplishments, and perseverance of the Latinx community.”
Samantha Jimenez (’22) is the President of the Chapman LatinX club, majoring in Business Administration with an Emphasis in Management and also a Latinx and Latin American Studies minor. To pay tribute to this special month, the club is scheduling posts of important Latinx figures everyday on their Instagram (@chapmanlatinx), such as the first Latina member of the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor and Latina American Activist, Sylvia Rivera. In addition to that the club is spotlighting Latinx students and their artwork about being Latinx.
“We have planned a lot for this special month, but my favorite part is the weekly Latinx Student Art Spotlight,” said Wendy Medina Herrera, the club’s social media manager (and Self-Designed Latinx Studies Major). “We asked members to submit art inspired by their Latinx identity, and it was amazing to see all the talent our community has! It’s a great way to recognize these people.” (Take a look at this submission by Andrea Vasquez (’24) Business Administration major and Music Business minor).
According to Jimenez the club is a safe place and community for Latinx students at Chapman. “Being a minority in a predominantly white institution isn’t easy and adds more stress on to students. We want to be their Familia away from home. We want them to have a place where they can be themselves.”
The Latinx and Latin American Studies minor was introduced 4 years ago as part of the University’s plan for diversity and inclusion. Espinoza was hired as the founding director.
“The goals for the program during these first few years have been curriculum development, community outreach, and student involvement/recruitment. I think the program is in a good place today, set up for growth in the future. The Latinx community is increasingly visible in our globalized world, so it is vital for universities to offer courses and programs of study in Latinx and Latin American Studies,” he said.
Students in the minor acquire specialized knowledge that will be invaluable in their professional careers and personal growth. Students are introduced to the structural and historical causes of migration, such as economic policies and political unrest and then learn how to connect those issues to everyday life of Latinx migrant laborers and asylum seekers.
“We have students from different majors, including business, film, psychology, and sociology. A Dodge College student recently declared for the minor because, as she stated, it will prepare her to tell authentic Latinx stories through film,” said Espinoza.
The flim below, Oportunidad, was highlighted on @chapmanlatinx and inspired by Herrera’s father who is a Mexican immigrant. “There is a lot of controversy surrounding immigration, but my goal was to at least provide a small glimpse into what these people have to go through just for the sake of opportunity,” she said.
As for Leon-Barranco, a psychology major (also a double minor in Leadership Studies), he hopes to apply his minor to his future career as a psychologist. “There’s a lack of care from a multicultural perspective. I want to be a Latino therapist that can aid other Latinx youth as my own therapist did back when I was fourteen. Without his help, I wouldn’t be the extrovert that I am today, I wouldn’t be prideful of my culture and the culture of others, and I probably wouldn’t have pursued my major. In a way, I hope to pay it forward to others.”
For those that might be considering the minor, Leon-Barranco says to take the introduction course (HUM 102 Introduction to Latinx and Latin American Studies) with Espinoza and just sit and listen and learn about what it means to be a Latina/o/x. “We’re a growing minor that supports one another. I still talk to students from the first graduating class (with the minor); they’re like family.”
Like Leon-Barranco, Jimenez suggests taking Espinoza’s intro class. “He made learning about our history interesting and relatable to everyone. It didn’t feel like I had to be Latinx to be able to understand the content which is great because it will allow for allies to learn more about us,” she said.
(Pictured in in main heading: Artwork by Senior Peace Studies major and Aesthetic Activism minor Natalia Ventura (’21) highlighted in @chapmanlatinx and is titled, TJ Stands for Tijuana, Not Trader Joe’s. This piece is one of many as part of Ventura’s Zine. Reach out to see more of her Zine at firstname.lastname@example.org).