Sophomore Melissa Cepeda has celebrated Latino Heritage Month since she was in high school, when she and her classmates dressed up in cultural outfits to honor different Latino backgrounds.
Now, despite being miles away from her home in the Dominican Republic, Cepeda, as president of Poder: Latino Student Association, plans to enhance her organization’s programs during Ithaca College’s observance of the month.
“It’s just about spreading awareness of our culture, basically what we are about,” Cepeda said. “This is all a little bit about us and who we are as a club and … culture, in general.”
The nationwide celebration dates back to 1968 when President Lyndon B. Johnson officially enacted Hispanic Heritage Week. Twenty years later, President Ronald Reagan extended the period to 30 days, with the Sept. 15 beginning marking the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
In addition to Poder, other campus groups have planned events to recognize the celebration, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The campus commemoration will begin Sept. 11 and continue until fall break. All events are open to the campus community.
The African-Latino Society will host the first event, a film screening, at 6 p.m. Sept. 11 in Textor 103.
Junior Aja Houpe, ALS’ spokeswoman, said ALS assigned a theme of “Embracing the Fierce Urgency of Now” to their programs to note the necessity of creating a community with their events.
“It’s earnest, and it definitely needs to happen now,” Houpe said. “Especially [when] setting climates on our campus here, [it] is important to have a united group.”
Houpe learned about Latino Heritage Month when she was in grade school and would embrace Hispanic culture with a childhood best friend’s family through food, festivals and other events. Now, she said she hopes the events will help unite people from different cultural backgrounds.
“Recognizing the heritage of a diverse and strong and enriching culture … that can span every corner of the world and has impacted numerous civilizations and societies is invaluable,” she said.
Poder has scheduled an “Orgullo Latino” banquet, meaning “Latino pride,” at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24 in Emerson Suites. The event will include a keynote address from Hector
Velez-Guadalupe, a retired professor of Latin American studies, and performances by Spit That! and IC Muevete dance company.
On Sept. 27, documentary filmmaker Luis Argueta will present a 30-minute excerpt of his film “abUSed: The Postville Raid” in recognition of Latino Heritage Month and Constitution Day at 7 p.m. in Textor 102.
The film documents the May 12, 2008 raid of a meat-packing plant in Postville, Iowa, that resulted in the arrest of 389 undocumented workers, according to the film’s official website.
Annette Levine, assistant professor of modern languages and literatures, said she hopes the showing will bring a “human face” to immigration and migrant labor.
Levine worked with politics professors Beth Harris and Patricia Rodriguez to bring Argueta to campus.
“It was very interesting to see students rally around the Arizona [anti-illegal immigration] bill in the spring, so a number of us faculty have become interested … in bringing more dialogue to the surface,” Levine said.
Cepeda said she hopes the new events will excite the campus.
“That’s what Latino Heritage Month is all about,” Cepeda said. “It’s about representing your culture and about just having fun.”