Yale Daily News

Friday marks the start of La Casa Cultural de Julia de Burgos’ — Yale’s Latine cultural center — programming in honor of Latine Heritage Month. 

Latine Heritage Month stretches from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. La Casa’s programming throughout the month will consist of six events coordinated by La Casa’s staff and six collaborative events run by various Latine student organizations. 

Eileen Galvez, assistant dean of Yale College and director of La Casa, told the News that La Casa’s upcoming programming is meant to celebrate Latine Heritage Month, rather than the federal holiday designation of Hispanic Heritage Month. 

“If we go with Hispanic heritage, what are we saying about Brazilians? What are we saying about Haitian communities?” she said. “[We want] to actually be inclusive of all communities within Latin America and not just who speaks a specific language.” 

One of La Casa’s signature events during this month is the Latine Retreat, which will take place Sept. 16. 

The annual retreat, held at the Yale Outdoor Education Center, has historically been Yale’s largest annual gathering of Latine undergraduate, graduate and professional students, according to La Casa leaders. 

“[The retreat] really shows that Latine students at Yale are here,” Galvez said. “They are part of all the schools. They are part of all the residential colleges … it’s something special to be among such a community and say we’re coming together and we’re taking up this space.” 

This year, La Casa staff said they are aiming to increase graduate and professional school students’ attendance at the center’s events, including the retreat, which have been dominated by undergraduates in past years. 

Katy Maldonado Dominguez GRD ’25, head graduate assistant at La Casa, noted that the center will now allow graduate and professional school students to have the option to drive themselves and bring their spouses and family members to the retreat. Moreover, La Casa has conducted additional outreach to graduate and professional school students as compared to previous years. Maldonado Dominguez said these changes led graduate and professional school student registration for the retreat to increase from approximately 15 in 2022 to 44 this year.

“The option to have family, but also drive themselves to the location, is something that is more in response to graduate students’ needs that I don’t think was there before,” Maldonado Dominguez said. “I’m sure that it feels a little awkward to go on a bus with students that are probably half your age. So I think [having] the emotional support of their family or their partners is helpful.”

Additionally, La Casa will be hosting a keynote speaker event in honor of Latine Heritage Month on Sept. 22. Speaker Lourdes Rivera ’87 LAW ’90, president of Pregnancy Justice, will discuss reproductive oppression of Puerto Ricans and other Latines in the past and present.

Galvez said that Rivera’s speech will be especially pertinent in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last June and strip Americans of the federal right to an abortion. Moreover, she added that La Casa’s history is related to reproductive justice due to its location. 

Throughout the 1970s, Galvez said, student activists in Despierta Boricua — a Puerto Rican student organization at Yale — advocated for a space for Latine students. In 1977, Yale’s then-president Kingman Brewster granted them permission to have a cultural center and allowed Orlando Rivera ’77 to choose between three locations. He picked 301 Crown St., which belonged to Yale’s psychology department at the time, per Galvez. 

When Rivera visited La Casa in 2017, he told Galvez that Yale’s psychology department played a role in developing the birth control pill, which was one of the ways Puerto Rican women were sterilized in the 20th century. Galvez said that Rivera explained how La Casa’s staff picked the location as an attempt to make the center a place where “Puerto Rican women can take up space.” 

Another event La Casa plans to hold during the month is the LATINExcellence Showcase, which will take place in the Underground at the Schwarzman Center on Oct. 7. The showcase will spotlight Latine undergraduate and graduate and professional schools’ visual and performing artists.

Eliana Cortez ’25, a La Casa peer liaison, performed at last year’s showcase and recalled feeling overwhelmed by the audience’s enthusiasm. 

“In those moments is when you’re reminded that there really is a community for you here that has your back that sees you and supports you and celebrates you,” she said.

La Casa Student Coordinator Pablo Macias Lopez ’27 said that, at Yale, you “have to work” to see Latine artwork, noting its absence in the art museums, butteries and other spaces around campus. 

However, he said the showcase addresses this issue.  

“I want people to see how diverse intellectually and artistically Latine people are … so that they can see we’re not whatever people think we are stereotypically,” Lopez said.

Galvez said she hopes students remember that La Casa’s programming is not limited to just this month. 

Throughout the year, La Casa hosts events for Latine students and offers support for first years through its peer liaison program. 

“We are worthy of being honored and celebrated year round,” she said. “If for some it takes [Latine Heritage Month] to recognize us, then we’ll take that opportunity. But regardless of whether they’re looking or not, we’re celebrating year-round.”

El Grito, the Ballet Folklórico Mexicano de Yale and Mariachi Lux et Veritas’s joint event to kick off Latine Heritage Month, will take place Friday at 4 p.m.

Correction, Sept. 17: This article has been updated with the correct class year for Eliana Cortez and the correct title for Lourdes Rivera.

Maia Nehme covers housing and homelessness and Latine communities for the News. Originally from Washington, D.C., she is a first-year in Benjamin Franklin College majoring in history.