Against the backdrop of the impending repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and the natural disasters that struck Mexico and Puerto Rico, members of Penn's Latinx community are determined to make the events surrounding Latinx Heritage Month this year an opportunity both for celebration and for support.
While La Casa Latina historically has initiated its own Latinx Heritage Month with an open house, this year the student-run Latinx Coalition inspired a new event that many hope will become a new tradition.
Instead of meeting at the ARCH building, students marched across Locust Walk, with a mariachi band leading the way and a display of Latin-American flags following behind. This year, the title of the march was "Here to Stay."
Latinx Coalition Programming Chair and College junior Celeste Diaz said the march allowed students to display their cultural pride and displayed solidarity with the “DACAmented," or those Penn affiliates who are beneficiaries of the Obama-era program President Trump has announced he will repeal.
“It was honestly really powerful because we got the whole community together,” Diaz said. “We made ourselves visible on campus despite certain things that are affecting our community right now politically.”
Enacted into law in 1988, the originally-named National Hispanic Heritage Month extends from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, which encompasses the anniversary of the independence of several Latin-American countries, and is intended as a celebration of the entire Latinx community.
One event Diaz found particularly inspiring was a talk by Gabby Rivera, a queer, Puerto Rican writer for Marvel Comics. She created the superhero America Chavez, who is Marvel's first Latinx lesbian superhero. At the event, Rivera spoke about the Latinx community's contributions to labor and invoked her own family's story.
"She emphasized a lot of the resilience and joy and a lot of the pain that a lot of communities of color are feeling at this time," Associate Director of La Casa Latina and 2013 College graduate Kareli Lizarraga said.
"And for students that was a lot of what they needed to hear," Lizarraga added. "It’s been a really hard couple of weeks for so many of our students."
On Oct. 11, La Casa Latina will host an exhibition reception and panel with photographer Harvey Finkle, who documents the 13-year history of the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia. The next day, the Latin American and Latino Studies Program will host the Penn in Latin America & the Caribbean Conference on the day of the Mexican national holiday “Dia de La Raza.”
“Anti-colonial movements and struggles are remembered and expressed in Latin America that day, [which is] sort of the opposite side of Christopher Columbus Day that some people might celebrate in the United States,” said Cathy Bartch, the associate director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program. “We’re really excited it’s on that day.”
Organizers hope all of the events during Latinx Heritage Month will attract not only students in the Latino community, but also students in the larger community at Penn.
”In the same way that black history is American history, Latinx history [is] American history," Lizarraga said. “So it’s vital that individuals, even if they’re not Latinx, learn about this because it’s American history.”
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