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Latino Heritage Month celebration begins

September 12, 2012

Photo of the Latino Resource Center table at the “Cultures Welcome” eventEvery fall , the Latino Resource Center and the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies organize academic, social, cultural and professional events for the NIU student body and community to celebrate Latino Heritage Month.

Latino Heritage Month recognizes the richness and diversity of Latino culture and history in the United States and Latin America.

This year’s activities will highlight Latino music and history. All events are free and open to the public.

“El Grito,” the traditional commemoration of Latin American independence, kicks off the celebration from 4. to 10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, at the Latino Center, 515 Garden Road. The event features food, games and prizes.

Daniel Hernandez Jr. is this year’s keynote speaker. He will take the stage from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15, in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium of the Holmes Student Center.

Daniel Hernandez Jr.

Daniel Hernandez Jr.

Hernandez is a Tucson native, a student at the University of Arizona and a former congressional intern credited with helping save the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the aftermath of her attempted assassination.

This event is being sponsored by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center; the Latino Resource Center; the Student Association; Prism; the Presidential Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity; and Unity in Diversity.

Hernandez joins a former list of distinguished keynote speakers frrom previous Latino Heritage Month celebrations, including critically acclaimed novelists Ana Castillo and Sandra Cisneros as well as Dolores Huerta, the co-founder of the United Farm Workers, and Rigoberta Menchú, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Eric Van Young, Distinguished Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) will discuss the social and cultural history of Mexican independence.

His seminar “‘In Mexico There Are No Mexicans: Decolonization and Modernization, 1750-1850” will be at 10 a.m., followed by a lecture “It’s Not Your Grandpa’s Revolution: The Social and Cultural History of Mexican Independence” at 5 p.m.; both presentations are scheduled to take place at the Latino Center Room 121.

This event is being sponsored by the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies and Graduate Colloquium Committee.

Cultural events include a dance party featuring the NIU Latin Jazz Ensemble. Panel discussions will explore educational opportunities in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) and a workshop on career development.

“Latino heritage month lets us come together to reinforce the accomplishments, culture, and struggles of the Latino experience in the Americas. This month is important for everyone, not only Latinos, because Latinos have shaped U.S history and are not frequently talked about or in some cases ignored – Tucson, Arizona, being a prime example of this,” said Adam Lopez, a senior majoring in history with a double minor in Latino Studies and Black Studies.

“It’s important for the younger generations to know that their antepasados (ancestors) helped create this country and they have a rich cultural history, which needs to be celebrated,” Lopez added.

“We must learn who we are as a Latino people in order to genuinely help bring all voices and backgrounds to the American table, which has for so long been one dominated by Eurocentric decisions … This is not a month only for Latinos because the Latino experience has been a mezcla (mix) of African, indigenous, European, and in some places Asian bloodlines, which form the real raza cosmica.”

A complete schedule of the time and locations of events is available online.

The Latino Resource Center is one of several campus cultural centers and part of the Division of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management. The Center for Latino and Latin American Studies is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Call (815) 753-1986 or (815) 753-1531 for more information.