CHRISTIAN CARRION — Staff Writer
Anthony Acevedo was one of 350 U.S. soldiers captured by the German forces during World War II. Together, he and the prisoners worked 12-hour days digging tunnels for the German army during the final weeks of the war before finally being liberated on April 23, 1945. Though Acevedo was free, the atrocities he was forced to witness haunted him for over 60 years.
Now 81-years-old, Anthony Acevedo is telling his story of survival for the first time as part of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the United States’ annual celebration of its Latin-American population, as well its history, heritage and culture.
President Lyndon B. Johnson first approved National Hispanic Heritage Month in 1968. After being further expanded by President Ronald Reagan, it was signed into law on Aug. 17, 1988. The commemorative month starts on Sept. 15 because it is the anniversary of the independence of five Latin American countries: El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16, Sept. 18 and Sept. 21, respectively.
The presence of Latinos in America is also being celebrated at Southern. The school’s Multicultural Center, in association with the Organization of Latin-American Students and the Office of Diversity and Equity, has sponsored eight different activities and programs taking place all throughout this month, from free Zumba classes, to a seminar on the portrayal of Latino stereotypes, to an invitation-only educational summit for Latino high school students. All of the events are geared towards paying homage to Latin-Americans and all they have brought to this country through their talents, their words, their deeds, and their hard work.
Leslie Rivera, a junior, says National Hispanic Heritage Month, as well as Southern’s celebration, hold special significance for her.
“I’m extremely proud to be Hispanic—Puerto Rican, more specifically,” Rivera said. “I’m glad I have more of an opportunity to learn about my culture and (the cultures of) other Hispanic groups.”
Rivera, a nursing major, finds personal role models in two Latin-American women.
“One of them is my mom,” said Rivera. “She started from the bottom in terms of poverty and such, worked hard, and ended up with a government job and two beautiful children, while becoming financially stable. Also, I think Jennifer Lopez is a good role model with a good head on her shoulders. She’s a singer, actress, mentor, mother, everything.”
Maayra Nieves, a senior who works at the school’s Women’s Center, believes that “(the celebration) means honoring all of the aspects of our culture and gives people an insight into who we are and what our culture means to us.”
Nieves, who studies dance at Southern, says she is inspired by Shakira and Celiz Cruz, two Latin-American female singers who have left their mark on American pop culture with their gifts of song.
“They are more than just musicians,” Nieves said. “They are powerful women who never forget who they are and are proud to let the world know about their culture, while helping others.”
The celebrations at Southern are planned to continue throughout the rest of National Hispanic Heritage Month, culminating on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. with the Organization of Latin American Students’ Noche de Gala Ball. Titled “Por el Amor de Espana (For The Love Of Spain),” the ball will be a celebration of Latin-American culture and traditions through music, food and entertainment.