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Latinos and Latinas alike attended "Fight Night" at Mad 4 Mex last Friday night to kick off Latino Heritage Month with the welterweight boxing title match between Felix Trinidad and Oscar de la Hoya. And though many were dissatisfied with the judges' final decision -- Trinidad won in a very close match -- the event was well-attended and its organizers are hopeful that the rest of Latino Heritage Month will be just as popular. "It really energized the Latino community and gave us a good start to Heritage Month," said College senior John Canto, who is president of El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, the University's Mexican American and Chicano group. "[Latino Heritage Month] gives us a chance to open up to the greater University community, give insight into our lifestyles and show prospective students and freshmen that Penn is committed to the Latino community." Though National Latino Heritage Month takes place in September, the University's celebration traditionally spans parts of September and October. Organizers from the Latino Coalition -- an umbrella group for Latino organizations that was formed last year -- have already planned a slew of events to celebrate the month and their heritage. Some of the other programs this month include a freshman barbecue, a Cuban art exhibit and various discussions, including "Latinos and Sex in the '90s," "The Life and Legacy of Che" and "Where Have All the Good Latin Men Gone?" "[Latino Heritage Month] is a good opportunity for us to celebrate our culture, learn a little bit more ourselves and have open dialogue," said College senior Leslie Heredia, president of La Asociaci-n Cultural de Estudiantes Latino Americanos, the University's Latin American organization. "It also helps bring us together as a community." In the past, various Latino groups have organized and sponsored events independently of one another, but this year's events are organized by the Latino Coalition. The biggest event so far in the month-long celebration was yesterday's ribbon cutting ceremony for La Casa Latina, the University's new Latino resource center. The center will function as an academic and social haven for Penn's Latinos through various programs and events. "The value in La Casa Latina is in a commitment by the University to our Latino community," said Canto, "I see La Casa as a gesture that Penn cares about us, that we are part of the University family." Many of the Latino students on campus say they are excited about the month's upcoming events. "It's a period where we get to demonstrate a lot of the special qualities about our culture," said Nursing junior Nancy Calderon, who is a member of MEChA. "We're trying to bring professionals from the community in and establish a network with them," she added, referring to some of the month's events. Some said they feel that during Latino Heritage Month it is just as important for Latinos to share their heritage with others as it is for them to celebrate their culture together. "It helps us remain true to our culture and keep us close to our roots," Canto said. "Latino students can keep close to their culture, even though they may be far away from home."

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