MEChA celebrates a month of Latin American culture

Old Campus residents might have been confused by the yelling and waving of flags outside their windows Wednesday night, but there was little to be concerned about.

El Grito, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan’s annual celebration of Mexican independence, brought dozens of students of all heritages to Old Campus at 15 minutes to midnight to run around, wave flags, and celebrate Mexican and Central American independence. The event helped to kick off Yale’s celebration of Latino Heritage Month, a national event that aims to raise awareness of Latin American culture, history and heritage that runs from September 15 to October 15 each year.

Julia Gonzales ’05, co-moderator of MEChA, said El Grito was a great way to start off Latino Heritage Month.

“As well as kicking off the year with a cool cultural event, El Grito is a fun way of celebrating what is traditionally Mexican but has expanded to include all cultures’ independence,” Gonzales said. “It kicks off Latino Heritage Month, and it’s really just a cool way to get to know some people that you didn’t know before and just feel like a kid. Running around old campus with a flag — it’s just fun.”

La Casa Cultural, the Latino Cultural Center at Yale, will sponsor a large calendar of events to celebrate Latino Heritage Month. Activities will include lectures, cooking lessons and even Salsa dancing lessons. MEChA and other Latino groups will also be holding celebrations of Latino culture and history throughout the month.

Irma Mejia ’06, secretary of MEChA, said she hoped students of all ethnicities would take an interest in the month.

“Last year we had a lot of people with no Latino heritage turnout to our events,” Mejia said. “It’s always great to learn about different cultures and they’re so many ways to get involved there’s no reason not to. They are awesome events and everyone who comes will enjoy them.”

Both Mejia and Gonzales expressed interest in different events that are planned for Latino Heritage Month. Mejia said she was excited about the visit of Moctesuma Esparza, a filmmaker and the CEO of Maya Cinemas and Maya Pictures. Gonzales said she was most enthused by the visit of Professor Mar’a Socorro Tabuenca Cordoba, who spoke Wednesday about illegal immigration, prostitution, and femicide in films about Ciudad Juarez, a Mexican border town near El Paso, Tex.

City groups are also celebrating Latino Heritage Month. The Arts Council of Greater New Haven is running an exhibit on “Spirituality in Contemporary American Art” that will feature local Latino artists. Manny Rivera, the Director of Community Cultural Development for the Arts Council, said he hoped the exhibit would get more people interested in Latino art.

“It’s in honor of Latino Heritage month, and we’ll have a slew of artists of all Latino heritages, with a really eclectic mix of art and of all spiritualities and faiths from Latin America,” Rivera said. “It’s everything from Catholicism to Santeria. It’s going to be building a bridge to many audiences that wouldn’t be specifically associated with the arts council.”

The exhibit is on display at the Small Space Gallery at the Arts Council building on Audubon Street, and includes work from Noriam Agudel, Imna Arroyo, Robert Cardona, Magalis Martinez, Ricky Mestre, Lisie Orjuela, Gloria Ruientiz and Yolanda Vasquez Petriochile.

Gonzales said it is important for both the city and the University to recognize and celebrate Latino Heritage Month.

“We’re living in an era of increased globalization and that’s creating all these new city dynamics like the latinoization of America,” Gonzales said. “I feel that by holding events like Latino Heritage Month you really recognize the contributions of Latinos to our society and culture.”

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