Hispanic Heritage Month takes place from Sept. 15 to Oct.15. Events on campus are being hosted by LIVE (Latinx in Valparaiso for Excellence).
“We are a group that advocates on behalf of Hispanic and Latinx students. We also are here to educate and promote cultural awareness about that particular group. We provide resources for students on campus, and help to promote their personal and academic success. We attend conferences targeted towards Hispanic and Latinx students. We help students with finding scholarships, internship opportunities,” said Gianna Muñoz, president of LIVE.
The purpose of the month is to recognize the contributions of Hispanic individuals to the United States and celebrate their culture.
“Hispanic Heritage Month is essentially an opportunity to celebrate all of the achievements and accomplishments of people within the Hispanic and Latinx community… It's also a great opportunity to educate members that are not part of that particular community, and highlight all the contributions that people from the Hispanic and Latinx community have made,” Muñoz said. “I think it's also really beautiful to showcase the intersectionality between like Hispanics and Latinx, people with other cultures. It's one big celebration to highlight achievements, accomplishments, contributions and ultimately to educate.”
The group has hosted a series of activities throughout the month to promote cultural awareness and celebrate the accomplishments of the Hispanic and Latinx communities.
“Some of the things that we have done so far for Hispanic Heritage Month, our first general meeting was sort of a kickoff to it because it was the day that it started. We talked about Mexican Independence Day and we had paletas, which are like ice cream bars but they're more traditional to Mexico,” Muñoz said. “We had those at our general meeting, and we presented slides and videos on sort of educating members about what Mexican Independence Day is, how it differs from Cinco De Mayo, sort of educating because a lot of people think that Cinco De Mayo is Mexican Independence Day when it's not.”
While the majority of Valpo students in the community are of Mexican heritage, LIVE has made substantial efforts to advocate for and celebrate other ethnicities.
“We also discussed that it was Independence Day for a lot of Central American countries as well, because I feel like there's a lot of emphasis on Mexico and that obviously makes sense because we have a large Mexican population at the school, but I think that it's also important to showcase the diversity amongst the Hispanic community. So there's a bunch of countries outside of Mexico, there's a ton in Central America, the Caribbean, South America and then of course there's Spain, too. We also talked about the difference between the term Hispanic and Latino and or Latinx and why they're not interchangeable,” Muñoz said. “So we've done a lot of educating and then just promoting cultural awareness. Yesterday [Sept. 29] we had a general meeting where we talked about resumes and cover letters and that was more an offer to help further students in our community and talk about different opportunities that they might have. Through networking, through internships, scholarship opportunities; we partnered with the Career Center to do that.”
To wrap up Hispanic Heritage Month, LIVE hosted a dinner in the Union ballrooms on Friday, Oct. 8 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. featuring traditional dishes and performances.
“The last big thing that we do in our Hispanic Heritage Month is we hold this dinner annually. Essentially, that is just a great way to showcase the diversity within our community, and sort of take an evening to celebrate all of the accomplishments that are like in our community. It's just a great way to have fun and engage students with our culture. I feel like primarily people do that with food, like in any culture, or music or dance, so we're going to have live performers, we're going to have music. Admission is free for all students and just on a first come, first serve basis,” Muñoz said.
While the focus of Hispanic Heritage Month and LIVE is on Hispanic and Latinx communities, anyone is welcome to participate.
“We're an organization that strives to promote cultural awareness, and we're an organization that is meant to be a safe place for people to come and not only learn about our culture, but for many other students that maybe don't always see adequate representation on campus,” Muñoz said.
Valpo’s efforts to diversify faculty, staff, and the student body have led to notable changes. Despite this, groups like LIVE offer valuable spaces for students to connect with individuals over shared experiences and to develop mentorship.
“I know that now we're starting to diversify a lot more of our staff and you know, President Padilla is part of that community too which is amazing to be able to see. However, I feel like on a day to day basis, it's really good to be able to see a lot of students that look like you come from similar backgrounds. You know, it offers a lot of mentorship to younger students,” Muñoz said. “I know when I entered as a freshman, it was really a culture shock for me, coming on this campus, because I am from Chicago and it's very different. I was used to always being around other Hispanic and Latinx students and then here, it's just, it's a different experience. So when I found out about LIVE I was like, ‘Oh this is cool to have an organization where people look like me or think like me or, you know, come from a similar background we have a lot of shared experiences.’”
The Office of Multicultural Programs (OMP) and its organizations provide spaces for students to strengthen relationships with members of their community and feel greater acceptance than other areas of campus.
“Students really like that, they like to be able to connect. It's important for formulating friendships, and it's just a place where you could let your hair down and be yourself, not that you can't do that in other places but I think that, particularly for organizations that are part of the Office of Multicultural programs, it is definitely helpful to have a space on campus where you're not necessarily afraid to be like your whole self,” Muñoz said.
As a member group of the OMP, LIVE has created an intersectional community with the other clubs celebrating diverse student identities.
“We actually share an office in the Center for Student Involvement with BSO [Black Student Organization]. Alliance is right next door and then AAPIC [Asian American Pacific Islander Coalition] is right across from us,” Muñoz said.
They work closely with other OMP organizations. For example they are partnering with BSO to work on a social media campaign to celebrate Afro-Latinx figures for We Matter Week.
“So we're partnering with them, and that's helping to uplift black voices, also Hispanic voices. That's a nice intersectionality that our two groups have. I mean, you can find your sectionality with people in the Hispanic and Latinx community literally anywhere. Anywhere in the OMP, there's lots of Asian and Hispanic people, famous figures, a bunch of Afro-Latinx figures, and then, you know, there's a lot of like people in the Hispanic Latinx community that identify as LGBTQ+ so, you know, it's kind of beautiful how all of these organizations really mesh and the intersectionality of all of them,” Muñoz said.
LIVE hosts biweekly meetings where students can become more active in the group and stay updated on events.
“The way that students can get involved is by attending our general meetings. We hold two general meetings per month there, every other Wednesday in the Gandhi King Center which is located in the second floor of the Union,” Muñoz said. “This semester they’re from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. Otherwise, if you're interested in getting involved, [but] can't necessarily make up one of those meet times, you can follow our social media accounts. We have an Instagram, Twitter, Facebook page. You can also email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.”