Yale Daily News

La Casa Cultural de Julia de Burgos, affectionately known as La Casa, hosted Hugo Perez ’93 at Luce Hall on Thursday, Sept. 15, for its annual kickoff event to commemorate the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Perez is the director of “OMARA,” a documentary on the famed Afro-Cuban singer Omara Portoundo. In addition to being sponsored by La Casa, the event was also sponsored by the Yale Alumni Association, Council for Latin American and Iberian Studies at Yale’s MacMillan Center, Yale Latino Alumni Network and Yale Latino Network Group. Perez expressed his gratitude in being able to be a part of the University’s transition into Hispanic Heritage month.

“I’m very happy to be here for the opening of Hispanic Heritage Month,” Perez said at the event. “I’m glad to see so many organizations on campus trying to bring us together, and I’m glad to be able to share ‘OMARA’ with you tonight.”

Marta Moret ’84, president of Urban Policy Strategies — a New-Haven based consulting firm focused on conducting public health research — and adjunct faculty member in public health at Southern Connecticut State University, highlighted the contributions of Latine Yale alumni — including Justice Sonia Sotomayor LAW ’79 and Carlos Moreno ’70 — and spoke about the relevance that the subject of Perez’s film portrays.

“Over the decades, the outstanding contributions of Latino students, staff and alumni have not only enriched this University but also the broader world,” Moret said at the event. “In an era rife with racial segregation — and certainly we have been experiencing this in a greater deal even more today with the polarization of our American democracy — Omara pushed the boundaries of progress for Latino women, the world over.”

In an email to students, Assistant Dean of Yale College and La Casa director Eileen Galvez said that the cultural center hosts multiple opportunities and events to “honor the variety of Latinx experiences and backgrounds” from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 — the period recognized nationally as Hispanic Heritage Month.

Galvez told the News that she hopes the kickoff event will serve as a sample of what students can expect from La Casa throughout the year. She highlighted events such as the Latine Retreat taking place at Deer Lake Scout Reservation on Sept. 17, “Noche Latina” taking place on Sept. 24 at Reese Stadium to support the women’s soccer team in its game against Princeton, the “LatinXcellence Showcase” occurring during Family Weekend at the Schwarzman Center and a postcard event hosted by La Casa peer liaisons for relatives who are not able to visit during Family Weekend.

“Essentially, this month is a lot about establishing opportunities to connect,” Galvez said. “And we hope that relationships blossom organically from there.”

Galvez also said that although Latine Heritage month is confined to just 30 days, the celebration of Latine heritage is not. She views the month as an opportunity for Yale’s Latine community to “showcase a bit of the broad diversity that’s included in the spectrum of Latinidad.”

“I hope that students know that they can and they should take up all the space — and I mean all the space — and all that Yale has to offer,” she said. “The Latino student population has been growing increasingly over time, and that’s super exciting.”

La Casa was founded in 1974 after Puerto Rican undergraduates and other local Puerto Ricans pushed for the creation of a center to highlight the Puerto Rican experience.

BENJAMIN HERNANDEZ