Latinos for Progress and the GW Latino community are hosting their first-ever in-depth celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which ends this week. The celebration features nine main events, including a sequence of parties, a heritage exhibit and a speaker series.
Students here are proud of our culture, we want to increase awareness and celebrate our diversity, said Erica Pinero, program assistant for Latin Outreach at the Multicultural Student Services Center.
Dr. Carlos Manuel Indacochea, a professor in GW’s Latin American Studies Department, addressed the differences between the words Latino and Hispanic during the last of a three-part speaker series Wednesday night.
Indacochea said the word Hispanic was created by the U.S. Census Bureau, and the word Latino has a Roman origin.
Ethnic groups define themselves and are also defined by others, and establish their boundaries on very particular matters, Indacochea said. The boundaries allow you to observe and say this is an ethnic group.
Indacochea said he advocated the use of the word Hispanic, but said it was a matter of personal preference.
Indacochea’s presentation followed a presentation from Oriana Izquierdo, a representative from Mana, an agency aimed at empowering Latina women.
Event planners said it is important to teach Latino students about their culture.
Being Latina, I learned things that even I didn’t know, said Sandra Gutierrez, executive chair of Latinos for Progress. A lot of Latinos at GW are first generation (American). We’ve lost culture. Learning names is an important thing, sometimes we’re put on the spot, people judge me (as Latino), and expect me to have this knowledge.
Gutierrez said people should know that Hispanics represent a broad spectrum of races and religions.
It is important to learn a little about everyone, Gutierrez said. It is time for people to educate themselves of the differences among Hispanics.
Gutierrez said an increase in Student Association funding allowed the group to put on more programs than it hosted in recent years.
Two years ago (Latinos for Progress) only received $200 from the Student Association and this year we have received $1300, she said. They have recognized that they can’t cut our budget because our membership is at around 200 people.
Organizers said they are particularly excited by this year’s events due to the growth in popularity of Hispanic culture.
Ricky Martin is hot. Enrique Inglesias is hot. Salsa is hot, Gutierrez said. It is the in thing to be aware of the Hispanic culture and we are getting a lot of exposure on MTV.
Eduardo Lara, coordinator for Latino Outreach at the Multicultural Student Services Center, said media hype has not influenced their celebration of the month.
When this Latino media sensation came about, it was ironic because Latinos have been in the country for years, he said.
Hispanic Heritage Month is more focused around diversity, he said. GW makes it a priority to celebrate diversity and we have taken that message and brought it to the Hispanic culture, Lara said.
The events are sponsored by a conglomerate of Latino organizations on campus, including the sorority Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad, the International Student Society, the Caribbean Student Association, fraternity La Unidad Latina and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.
Gutierrez said opening celebrations began with a Sept. 15 kick-off party, which hosted more than 200 students from GW and other area universities.
Other events included a Latino-style barbecue in Kogan Plaza, as well as a pool party at the Smith Center, which was co-hosted by the Black Student Union.
An exhibit on Hispanic heritage located at the MSSC resource room at 2127 G St. will remain open until Friday. The exhibit features Hispanic flags as well as cultural garb, traditional candles and religious symbols.
The Latino Community will host Pachanga, a Spanish-style celebration with food and drinks, Friday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the MSSC resource room. It will also mark the conclusion of the heritage exhibit.
The final party will take place on Oct. 21 from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. in the Hippodrome. The theme is the Forbidden Dance and attendees are requested to dress to impress. The party is free and open to the public.