By RACHEL MANNING
From Sept. 15 through Oct. 8, the University of Mary Washington will be holding its annual Latino Identities Month to celebrate Latino culture and heritage. This year, the organizers are trying to expand the activities so as to reach an even wider audience.
There will be several events scheduled throughout the month, the first of which started with the Kickoff Event at 4 p.m. on Ball Circle on Tuesday. At this event, Professor Bocaz-Leiva, along with several students, handed out quesadillas, rice and Brazilian stroganoff to anyone who wanted some.
The kickoff celebration was so popular that by the end, the organizers ran out of food, which is something co-president of the Latino Student Association, Kendra Ganser, has never seen before. “[Latino Identities Month is] already a bigger success than last year,” Ganser said.
According to Ganser, one of the reasons the event has garnered such interest is the inclusive attitude that the event organizers insisted upon. “We really want everyone to join in, regardless of race or ethnicity,” she said. “You should attend if you just want to learn more about Latino culture.”
The current leaders of the Latino Student Association are trying to offer more varied events than in the past so more people can find more to enjoy. “In the past, people have liked the food and the music,” said former vice president of the Latino Student Association Julissa Pena.
That is why they have included events such as a soccer tournament, a dance workshop led by professional instructors and a Zumba class. They think that events like these, which anyone would want to go to, could encourage more people to join in on the celebration.
In addition to the emphasis on inclusion, one of the goals the festival has retained is the enthusiasm for teaching people about the Spanish Language. “Some people are afraid of the language because it might be hard, but having Spanish-speaking friends makes them feel more comfortable,” Pena said.
The language is a significant part of the culture, and the Latino Student Association seeks to encourage people to learn both Spanish and Latino culture. Marion Sanford, the director of the James Farmer Multicultural Center, worked with the Latino Student Association during the planning of Latino Identities Month.
“Our goal is to reach out as much as we can and to enlighten as much as we can,” Sanford said of the festival. In Sanford’s opinion, the purpose of the festival is to “address [stereotypes] and make sure that people understand that it’s more than just about stereotypes.” She believes Latino Identities Month will help students learn about the Latino people and culture, and in doing so, put stereotypes aside.
The event that the coordinators are most excited for is the Keynote Performance, which will be done by comedian Joe Hernandez-Kolski in the Digital Auditorium on Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. His routine, titled “Refried Latino Pride” discusses what it means to be Latino in today’s world.
“This performance is something that will speak to the pride Latinos have for who they are,” Sanford said. “We hope a lot of people come to see that, because it really should appeal to everyone, and not just Latinos.”
The next event lined up for Latinos Identities Month is Zumba, which will take place on Ball Circle on Saturday at 4 p.m.
“We would like to see everyone interested in Latino Identities Month,” said Ganser about her biggest wish regarding the festival. “We’ve definitely had an increase in interested people this year, and that’s pretty exciting,”