This year’s Latinx Heritage Month emphasized unity and diversity within the Latinx community through music, which was celebrated virtually at the University from mid-September until Tuesday.
Javier Solorzano Parada, program manager of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs, was one of the heads of Latinx Heritage Month. Solorzano said the ability to invite multiple speakers from outside of Michigan to the remote event made LHM particularly engaging.
“It was powerful hearing people say ‘hello’ from a different state, something that we weren’t able to see during programming before,” Solorzano said. “I’ve seen momentum and engagement continue throughout the whole month because we were able to have different speakers at different points in the month, whereas in other years, we focused on our large events, the opening and closing ceremonies.”
Solorzano said events that took place highlighted a range of topics, including imposter syndrome, generational trauma, anti-Blackness and more. Faculty, staff and students participated in planning LHM.
Public Policy graduate student Baltazar Hernández, member of the programming committee, said the committee focused including diverse voices within the Latinx community.
“One challenge was figuring out what Latinx Heritage Month looks like in a virtual environment and we were grappling with how to celebrate the diverse cultures within the Latinx umbrella so we wanted to incorporate as many different voices as we could,” Hernández said.
The Afro Latinx community was highlighted during this year’s LHM through the logo and music. Sizzle Fantastic, a DJ and curator of Cumbiatón, a nationwide party that pays homage to the Afro Latinx culture, played at the opening ceremony.
“We really wanted to emphasize Afro Latinx identity and specifically through music,” Hernández said. “We’re trying to build a mosaic of different stories that these instruments (in the logo) tell and how diverse our narratives are as people from a larger region.”
Business junior Alex Jimenez was on the marketing committee for LHM and strategized the promotion of events.
“We’ve had to be very flexible and instead of promoting different groups’ events before the programming for LHM even starts, we promote as much as we can during LHM for the days preceding each event,” Jimenez said.
LSA junior Ximena Mancilla, who was the undergraduate coordinator for LHM, said cybersecurity issues prompted the LHM team to utilize the webinar feature on Zoom rather than the traditional format where participants can see each other.
One in-person aspect of the programming was the safe distribution of “movie bags” to students on campus for the virtual Netflix parties put on every Saturday during LHM. Mancilla said the committee gave students popcorn, candy and jarritos, a popular fruit-flavored soda, for people to snack on during watch parties of movies like Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse and the TV show Gente-fied.
“Celebrating our culture does not stop after this month, we still have so much more to do and every day we should be proud of who we are because we deserve to be here at the University of Michigan no matter what anyone says,” Mancilla said. “I want everyone to keep being proud of where they come from: their family, roots and traditions.”
Events like LHM are especially important at predominantly white institutions because they can shed light on the difficulties of being a person of color in these spaces, according to Jimenez, who also noted the exclusion of opinions of people of color in the implementation of the Michigan Ambassadors program.
Jimenez said voting in the upcoming presidential election can amplify Latinx voices.
“Latinx voter turnout could determine this election and I really hope things turn out for the best,” Jimenez said. “There have been a few speakers who have talked about the importance of voter turnout. Even at our opening ceremony, we had a Kahoot where one of the questions asked how many Latinx people would be eligible to vote this year … I think it’s just small stuff like that that puts it into peoples’ heads.”
Solorzano said he hopes LHM will continue to be a way to learn about other peoples’ experiences and to share the Latinx identity with the campus community.
“We are all navigating through very difficult times and with this pandemic, we are all viewing things through very different lenses,” Solorzano said. “For me it’s so great to hear committee members and community members excited about events happening on campus … that excitement and that celebration is something that I think creates many strong memories for students who are joining us, especially first-year students.”
Mancilla highlighted the need to focus on embracing the Latinx identity.
“We belong here and have worked so hard to be here,” Mancilla said. “We continue to fight for this equality, but also we don’t want to sweat it too much because we know our worth and don’t want our parents’ and families’ sacrifice to go in vain.”
Daily Staff Reporter Celene Phillip can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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