by Elizabeth Rodarte
Colorful clothing, flags, art pieces, live salsa dancers, food and laughs brought life to the University of La Verne.
Officially Sept.15-Oct.15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. However, the Latino Student Forum decided to name Tuesday’s event Latino Heritage Fiesta because it felt it would be more inclusive.
“It was important that we put this event together because we decided that we want to make people aware of the Latin culture,” said LSF president Maria Muñoz, a junior. “We want others to know there are different Latin American countries and that we are all not the same.”
The majority of LSF members in the past have been predominantly Mexican. This year though, member participation from South and Central America has increased.
“We basically want people to know that we are here, and that we are a strong population of the University,” Muñoz said.
Hispanic Heritage Month allows Latinos to express and share the richness and beauty of their culture.
Freshman Derek Wendt, who is of Pacific Island descent said, “I see that a lot of Hispanic people are very friendly and are always willing to share their culture.”
“I have a lot of friends who are Hispanic, and I think it’s great that we can do these kinds of events,” said senior Dana Hazen. “Especially since this is a very diverse campus.”
Different stereotypes are spread about the Latino culture.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about our culture,” said Ciriaco Pinedo, director of development corporate and foundation relations. “They think Latinos are lazy, that we are all Catholic.”
Muñoz said, “We want to fight against dogmas, what people think about us, what is said, basically stereotypes.”
Many Latinos around campus walked through the fiesta with pride and big smiles, while others seemed to observe the booths with a puzzled expression.
Sophomore political science major Anthony Granillo said, ” I am here today because I am a Latino and think it’s great that we can celebrate and have such support from the community.”
Granillo hopes for continuous growth in the Latino community and support from ULV.
“I am here today to learn more about my culture because I don’t really think about it much,” said sophomore diversified major Arlene Perez.
“I feel very proud of being a Latino. The culture is a very beautiful one and I always try to share that with friends,”said sophomore LSF member Rafael Solis. “People need to know it is not ‘Mexican’ what is spoken, but Spanish.”
Some people enjoyed watching the dancers and participating in the lessons offered, while others devoured the food.
“I had a lot of fun going up there and dancing salsa,” said sophomore Remy Rodriguez.
Wendt said, “I love the entertainment and the food was great.”
Other familiar faces that participated in the salsa lessons included Dr. Richard Rose, assistant professor of religion and philosophy, Dr. Deborah Burris-Kitchen, assistant professor of sociology, and Derek Vergara, director of the First Generation Student Success Program.
The fiesta was sponsored by the Latino Student Forum and the Multicultural Center.
LSF and the Multicultural Center’s goal for the ULV community is to promote intercultural experience.
Harvel Lewis, coordinator of minority affairs, said, “I would like to run workshops on campus where students can get trained to do what I do.”
Lewis has had requests to start an Armenian club, and to reform the Asian, and Gay and Bisexual clubs.
Multicultural events offered at ULV aid in the enhancement of students diversity education.
President Stephen Morgan said, “I think all of the cultures of the ULV community bring a richness and a diversity that we can all learn from.”
Dr. Morgan also said that days like today or Makahiki Day help him better understand the culture.
ULV works hard to offer the student body a wide variety of diverse programs and events.
Pinedo believes that ULV can show big and small universities what it requires to not only recruit, but to nurture Latino students.
One program that has aided the retention of not only Latino students, but students of all cultures is its first generation program.
“La Verne has started that. The First Generation Student Success Program is a great model of what can happen when a vision is brought to fruition,” Pinedo said.