Diving Deeper dives into Hispanic heritage

Leah ThompsonStaff Writer

Each year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the United States celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month. Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the contributions and achievements of Hispanic Americans throughout the history of the United States. This year the Center for Inclusive Excellence (CIE) is helping to organize Hispanic Heritage Month here at Gustavus. The CIE helps connect students with educational programming, events, and resources on campus that can help students dive deeper into terms such as culture, diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice, identity, and intersectionality. There’s a lot that goes into the planning of a program, like choosing speakers, reserving the space, and creating advertisements, but the veterans at the CIE are used to putting on events like these.

“Hispanic Heritage Month was the theme for last year’s Lyrical Cafe, but this year we wanted to do something a little different,” Assistant Director for the CIE Kareem Watts said. 

“We chose the topics of Hispanic Heritage Month based on the expertise of Robert and Carlos,” Watts said.

Rob Christensen, a visiting professor in History, was the first speaker in the October Diving Deeper Series. In the CIE on Tuesday, Christensen presented on the Emancipation of Latin America.

Christensen’s talk focused on Mexican independence and how the army for independence consisted mainly of Indigenous people. He continued to talk about the aftermath of the war, and how there was a push for racial equality in the newly independent Mexico.

“I’m hoping the takeaway point is that we should all try to work to understand each other, even when we disagree,” Christensen said.

Additionally, Professor Christensen touched on the aftermath of Central American independence, particularly the period after 1841 when the Central American Federation began to break apart into the smaller countries as we know them today.

“The highest highs came when people who had very different ideas were willing to find points they could agree on and work together to solve their nations’ problems, and when they could do that they made a real difference,” Christensen said. 

Carlos Mejia, professor of Spanish and the Department Chair for Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, is another one of the speakers for The October Diving Deeper Series. He will be talking about the Emancipation of Latin America from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 11 in the CIE.

“I think the most important thing about this kind of celebration is to acknowledge that all ‘heritage’ is alive and does not sit static in a vacuum of the past,” Mejia said.

Professor Mejia plans to focus on addressing some of the history of Colombia and recent developments in Colombian politics, activist groups, and on-going protests.

Additionally, Mejia also plans to focus on the usage of the word “Hispanic” and how there will always be segments of the population that aren’t recognized or are left out of the narrative.

Stephanie Gandy, a Black and Irish artist, activist, and educator, will give the third and final presentation of the October Diving Deeper Series between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20 in the CIE. 

Gandy’s presentation focuses on the Intersections of Student Art and Activism, which will highlight a few methods of art activism that one could use to protest the injustices of society.

The CIE typically has a Diving Deeper book discussion each semester, but this fall the team decided to turn the Diving Deeping series into an array of things. 

“We decided to make our Diving Deeper program more broad by incorporating culturally engaging presentations, an outdoor hiking experience for BIPOC students, and new book discussions and themes,” Watts said. 

Although Hispanic Heritage Month only spans 30 days, that doesn’t mean that Gustavus can’t celebrate Hispanic heritage and culture the rest of the year.

The Organization for Latinx American Students (OLAS) is an organization dedicated to preserving and promoting LatinX American culture both at Gustavus and the St. Peter community. OLAS creates programming throughout the year that celebrates student identities and academic interests. 

“The best way to celebrate this heritage is by keeping it open to those who have not been recognized, but who have nevertheless been fundamental in the definition of who we are as Latin Americans, Hispanics, Latinx, Latino/a, Spanish Americans, Indigenous and Afro-descendents of the Americas,” Professor Mejia said.