Cultural awareness is a necessity: experience Hispanic culture at COD

Reanna Comiso, Features Editor

In 1970, the Hispanic population in America was only at around 5 percent. Now, about a 20 percent of the total U.S. population comes from Hispanic heritage, according to the PEW Research Center. As the United States becomes increasingly diverse, cultural competence is more important now than ever. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, The College of DuPage will host an array of events celebrating Hispanic culture for the remainder of September and into October.

There are many opportunities to learn about different cultures in the U.S., thanks to the various heritage month celebrations occurring each year. September marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, one of the many heritage celebrations in this country.

Hispanic Heritage Month consists of 30 days, beginning on Sept. 15 and ending on Oct. 15. What began as a week-long celebration in 1968 was expanded by President Ronald Reagan 20 years later, resulting in a  full month of cultural celebration. The month-long celebration was written into U.S. law in 1988 and has become a celebration to honor contributions of Hispanic figures.

The celebration begins in the middle of the month rather than the beginning for an important reason. The date Sept. 15 marks the independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile and Belize followed suit, with their independence days occurring on Sept. 16, 18 and 21.

“Latinos have a huge presence in this country,” said Elizabeth Mares, professor and chair of the Latin American Studies Committee.  “Hispanics have contributed so much to the U.S. in the form of art, history, technology, politics, sports, entertainment, medicine, law, business and the list goes on. Hispanic Heritage Month gives us a chance to learn about those contributions and celebrate them.”

The Latino Outreach Center will host a free screening of “La Boda de Valentina” at noon on Sept. 26 in SSC 1200. “La Boda de Valentina” is a comedy about a girl named Valentina who must confront her chaotic and scandalous family in Mexico after her American boyfriend proposes to her.

The center will also host a Zamba dance, the traditional dance of Argentina. Not to be confused with the Samba dance, the Zamba is a slow-dance performed by couples who circle each other and wave around white handkerchiefs as they dance. Campus members can learn this traditional dance at 11 a.m., Oct. 2 in the Student Services Atrium.

Casa de Amigos, or the Spanish Club, is one of the many ethnic clubs at COD. The aim of the club is to experience various aspects of Hispanic culture by taking part in conversation and experience. The club will host a Hispanic Heritage Month Conversation Table on Oct. 6. The club plans to use the time to educate campus members on Hispanic culture and the Spanish language.

The club also prioritizes education through cultural excursion. The club, along with the Latin American Studies Committee, will host a trip to the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen, one of Chicago’s Latino neighborhoods. The trip will commemorate El Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. The trip will occur from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m on Oct. 27th from.

Students who cannot attend the events have an opportunity to learn about Hispanic culture year-round. Casa de Amigos and the Latin American Studies Committee offer free events all semester that celebrate Hispanic culture. Students can also further themselves academically by studying abroad in Spain or Costa Rica with COD and enrolling in Spanish language courses.

“There is a famous Czech proverb: ‘when you learn a new language, you acquire a new soul’,” said Mares.