Students celebrate Hispanic and Latino culture

Jeniece RomanGeneral Assignments Reporter

Norma Valentin said she looks forward to attending the Empowering Lives: Celebrating the Hispanic & Latino Culture event every year.

“The opening with you know, salsa, merengue, I love that. That captures your attention right away of who we are,” said Valentin.

The Multicultural Center, with help from the Organization of Latin American Students, sponsored the event that featured Latin dishes from Tata’s Restaurant and a live performance in the Michael J. Adanti Student Center ballroom.

“The purpose really is to build a community and educate our campus community regarding Latino heritage and culture. Again, since it is National Hispanic Heritage Month, this is the opportunity where we honor and celebrate the history and culture of our Hispanic/Latino community,” said Dian Brown-Albert, coordinator of Multicultural Affairs.

Brown-Albert said she thought of the idea for the event eight years ago. She said there was not a medium in which students could hear from professionals of the Latino/ Hispanic community. The event is one of several on campus celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, according to the SCSU website.

The month long celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month was initiated in the United States in 1988 and several dates within the month mark the anniversary of independence for: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile, according to the Hispanic Heritage Month website.

The guest speaker of the event was Juan Castillo, radio host of 94.3 WYBC The Rhythm of the City. Brown-Albert said the members of The Multicultural Center have wanted to invite Castillo as a guest speaker for years.

“He’s been on our list but we never really had the opportunity until now to invite him to speak and share his story, and hopefully that will inspire our students that they can accomplish anything,” said Brown-Albert.

Castillo gave a speech about his journey from serving time in prison to becoming a radio host and the ways he has faced discrimination in the past and how he has learned to handle those situations.

Castillo said, “I think that it’s very important for us as Hispanics to share our stories and share our culture with folks.” 

When he was in prison, Castillo said a fellow inmate told him, “The revolution in America is not about million man marches and posturing on television, the revolution in America is about a one-on-one situation.”

Castillo said the statement significantly impacted him. He said the way to bring about change and break discrimination is through smaller interactions.

 “By the end of the day it’s about a one-on-one relationship between you and people of all kinds of backgrounds,” said Castillo. “That’s what it’s all about, that’s how we change America.”

Valentin said she agrees with that people must work individually to make change. She said the idea of getting to know people is something she lives by.

“Some people don’t know anything but if you get to know one person in their culture then you know about the whole [culture],” said Valentin.

Castillo said if people share who they are, they could establish a relationship and change people’s opinions of a culture.

“What happens is, if they like you as a person, that person who was a previous bigot or racist, then that person is going to change,” said Castillo.

“It’s important that when you’re speaking to someone else from another culture that you exposed them to our foods and our culture as a whole,” said Castillo. “That’s the way I think that the message gets out. So don’t be afraid to talk about your culture.”

Photo Credit: Jeniece Roman – General Assignments Reporter


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