Complete with a gala and a performance showcase, National Hispanic Heritage Month presented an opportunity for Yalies to celebrate Latinx communities at Yale and beyond.
A wide variety of events, including mixers and discussions, were offered through La Casa Cultural during the month-long celebration, which lasted from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Student groups such as Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán de Yale and Club Colombia sponsored these events, which were open to all Yale students. Many students who spoke to the News said that the month allowed them to recognize and celebrate the contributions, histories and cultures of the Latinx community both at Yale and around the world.
“In reality, Latinx Heritage is celebrated all year long,” said La Casa Director Eileen Galvez. “However, Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 is a special time for many of us … It is symbolic of our complicated history as Latinx people living in the United States.”
This year’s Latinx Heritage Month celebrations kicked off on Sept. 14 with the annual Latinx Retreat, held at Deer Lake Scout Reservation. For Sonja Malek ’22, who attended the retreat, the event was her favorite of the month because she was able to meet more members of Yale’s Latinx community in a “fun and relaxing environment.”
Other events included a welcome back barbeque on Sept. 15, a multiracial and transracial adoptee mixer on Sept. 25, a discussion about life after Yale with William Genova ’15 on Oct. 1 and a Latinx graduate network brunch on Oct. 6.
Latinx Heritage Month’s closing keynote was given on Oct. 11 by Clelia Rodríguez, author of the book “Decolonizing Academia: Poverty, Oppression and Pain.” Following her speech, there was a LatinXellence Showcase in the UndergroundCrescent Theater at Morse and Stiles colleges.
“The idea of [the showcase] was to highlight the work, art and talent of the Latinx community and … bring voice and embodiment of those people to a stage where normally they might not get a chance to be seen or heard,” Malek said.
The LatinXellence Showcase included over 10 acts from the various performing arts groups, ranging in specialty — from poetry to dance to singing.
According to Malek, La Orquesta Tertulia, a Latin campus band, closed out the showcase with a lively set of salsa music. While they were playing, all of the guests hopped onto the dance floor for a spontaneous dance party.
“A lot of people came up to me crying afterwards, being like, ‘Oh my god! I haven’t danced salsa since I was home!’” said Alejandro Campillo ’21, who co-organized the showcase with Malek. “So, I think we brought a bit of home to Yale with the showcase.”
Every year, La Casa selects a theme for the school year. This year’s is “Decolonizing La Casa.” Galvez explained that the theme aims to explore conversations on queer and trans exclusion, to discuss anti-blackness and Native erasure and to bring attention to the phantoms of the colonial structures which still exist in today’s society.
The LatinXellence Showcase reflected this theme, according to Malek. For Campillo, this meant encouraging individuals who would not generally share their talents to perform, as opposed to featuring established groups in the showcase.
“We were aiming to decolonize the arts … and break the stereotypes of Latinx people who are typically put on stage,” Malek told the News. “In the media, you’ve got the overly sexualized stereotype or the poor stereotype [of Latinx individuals], so we really wanted to break those and show our community in all these different spaces.”
For Jovan Tafoya ’21, Latinx Heritage Month was a time to look back at one’s roots and predecessors. He views his life as being in crucial relation to those who came before him and stressed the importance of recognizing the contributions that have been made in communities before his time.
“It’s really kind of like knowing what your roots are and following the path that we’re set from your predecessors and your roots,” he said. “Knowing where you come from and understanding that your life is in relation to those who came before you. So, I think it’s important to recognize that and recognize the contributions that people in the community have made before you.”
On Oct. 12, Sube — Yale’s Latinx business and leadership student association — held its Latinx Heritage Month Gala in the Davenport common room, and hosted Henry Cisneros, a former secretary for housing and urban development under President Bill Clinton LAW ’73. Cisneros was awarded the Latinx Trailblazer Award from Sube for his work in business and public service.
Latinx Heritage Month wrapped up on Oct. 14 with Indigenous People’s Day, which was co-sponsored by La Casa and the Association of Native Americans at Yale.
Julia Brown | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, Nov. 6: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the last event of Latinx Heritage Month was Indigenous People’s Day on Oct. 14. In fact, Latinx Heritage Month wrapped up on Oct. 14.