Hispanic Heritage

University Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage month is celebrated at Monmouth University from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of the events have been conducted virtually.

The Hispanic Heritage Month planning committee has worked to create events that help students understand and support the Hispanic community—not just at the University, but everywhere. Past events include “Urban Bachata: The Black History of Bachata Dance”, “Racism and Colorism within the Latinx Community”, and “But I Am Both: An Afro-Latinx Dialogue.”

One figure behind the planning of Hispanic Heritage Month is Zaneta Rago-Craft, Ph.D., Director of the Intercultural Center. Rago-Craft, along with students, faculty and staff began outlining the month’s events in early August. This year, the committee faced the difficult task of transitioning all the events to a virtual experience, but Rago-Craft did not view it this way. She viewed the planning process as “an exercise in creative thinking.”

The COVID-19 pandemic did not slow Rago-Craft’s interest in hosting events, including closing keynote addresses by Dolores Huerta, an activist and labor leader who co-founded what would become the United Farm Workers. Rago-Craft credited social media with playing a huge role in the promotion of events, allowing “[them] to have greater reach than what we may have experienced with just a print campaign.”

Since the events are virtual, attendance this year has risen because more individuals “are able to tune in a bit more conveniently from the comfort of their own homes or residence halls,” Rago-Craft said.

She continued, “We are in essence uplifting and recognizing the incredible contributions of those within Hispanic and Latinx communities, both to our campus and to the world at large.”

Brayan Loja, Chapter President of Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, was in charge of coordinating two Hispanic Heritage Month events: “Urban Bachata: The Black History of Bachata Dance,” in which students had the opportunity to learn more about this genre and         included live dance instruction. He also is coordinating an event “I Stand with Immigrants: Social Media Campaign and Dialogue” which will be held all day on Oct. 15 via Instagram, in which students are able to express and discuss the reasons they support immigrants.

He hopes that this month serves as a point of exposure for the Hispanic community at Monmouth University and that “[this] community is here to teach other students about our culture, not just about one country but of every single one.”

Another student leader, Yarleny Mejia, President of Chi Upsilon Sigma National Latin Sorority Inc., was able to collaborate and coordinate various events including “But I am Both: An Afro-Latinx Dialogue,” “Racism and Colorism within the Latinx Community” and “Urban Bachata: The Black History of Bachata.”

Hispanic Heritage 2

Mejia found that making the programs as interactive as possible has been difficult, yet she remained surprised and happy with the support the many events have had. She believes it is important for Hispanic Heritage Month to be celebrated because, “it will always be beneficial to educate students about the Latinx communities, especially since Monmouth is a PWI and the social climate of today.”

Another member that helped planned events for this month is Frank Cipriani, Professor of the Department of the World Languages and Culture who contacted screenwriters, the Carmona Sisters, to do a virtual version of their off-Broadway show “Elvira: The Immigration Play.” Cipriani hopes that this month can serve as a way for “our country to continue to welcome immigrants, to embrace cultural diversity” and “to acknowledge the rich heritage of Latinidad.”

Tashir Hampton, Assistant Director of the Office Student Activities helped plan Latinx Trivia Night and Salsa Magic. In his perspective, social media has been super important in the promotion of this month and the number one priority was to “make it as easy and accessible for students to be able to join these events.”

Although there has been high attendance for certain events, he “keeps encouraging students to show up and support as much as they can.” He hopes what other students take away from this month “… is that they have learned a little bit more in terms of the history, if they are part of the community they have felt seen and celebrated and lifted up, and continue to feel encouraged and supported.”

Senior Paola Sosa attended the “Elvira: The Immigration Play and Workshop” event and was very impressed by the play’s message getting across despite viewings being held via Zoom. She enjoyed the workshop after the play in which the actors interacted with the audience by answering questions, as it provided a space for everyone to share their own personal immigration stories or Hispanic traditions.

Sosa thought that the second part of the workshop was a “nice way to bring everybody together and realize that we have a lot of things in common no matter where you are from, but we also have differences that are just as fascinating to learn and understand.”

There are still many events left for students to attend during the remainder of Hispanic Heritage Month. The closing keynote speaker will be Dolores Huerta, President and Founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

This event will be held Oct. 14 at 3:30 p.m. via Zoom and registration is required. The list of remaining events can be found on The Intercultural Center’s website or their Instagram page @monmouthintercultural.

The message is clear: the Latinx community at Monmouth University are proud of their culture and are here to stay. To celebrate the Hispanic culture is a step towards highlighting the positive contributions they make to this country.  Through events like the ones hosted at Monmouth, others understand, tolerate, and respect this community.

PHOTO COURTESY of Anthony DePrimo (2018)

IMAGE TAKEN from Monmouth Intercultural Center Instagram