On Wednesday, the UNCG student group, S.A.L.S.A, Spanish American Latino Student Association, hosted a Fiesta in the Moran Commons and Plaza. This celebration was in honor of the end of Hispanic Heritage month that occurs from Sept. 15 – Oct. 15.
At this event, there was authentic Latin food available to the public. This food included rice, flan and beef or chicken empanadas (savory stuffed pastries). Rhythmic Latin beats reverberated as a sizable crowd of students joined in the festivities.
Advisor to the Spanish American Latinx Civil Association and the director of the Office of Intercultural Engagement, Augusto Peña, addressed the UNCG crowd and introduced the dance performance with a warm welcome: “Hispanic heritage month started out as a week long celebration of Hispanic arts and culture in 1968. Twenty years later, the festival was expanded to a month, which now begins September 15 and ends on October 15. In addition to serving as a start to Hispanic heritage month, September 15 also marks the day of independence for five Latin American countries, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. On the [Sept.] 16, we celebrate the independence of Mexico, Chile follows on the 18, and Belize on the 21.”
Hispanic heritage month then, is not only is it a month of cultural appreciation, but one that celebrates days in which national autonomy was gained among various countries in Latin America.
Peña also emphasized the celebratory aspects of the festivities, “Hispanic Heritage month as we celebrate it today pays tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society. This list of influential Hispanic Americans includes: Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chaves, Roberto Clemente, Sonia Sotomayor, Tito Fuente, Modesto Cartagena, Selena… At this Fiesta at the Fountain, sponsored by the Spanish American Latino Student Association, we gather to celebrate, to remember and to share our culture with the UNCG community.”
In an interview with members of S.A.L.S.A, UNCG junior Lucero Pelagio said that the other events hosted by S.A.L.S.A “go along with the Hispanic culture, as they usually try to keep the holidays like Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), but also include the International Festival as well as many different events going on for Hispanic Heritage month.” S.A.L.S.A member, Marilyn Cedillos said the student group meets “every other Tuesday, at 6 p.m,” and S.A.L.S.A member, Adriana Gonzalez, said they meet “in alternating rooms from the Education Building to the EUC.”
Hispanic, Latino, Latinx, Chicano, Boricua and Dominicano are just a few ways people of Latin heritage refer to themselves based on their country of origin. Boricua, for example, refers to an individual from Puerto Rico, Chicano refers to those who are Mexican-American and Dominicano refers to those from the Dominican Republic. Latinx is a term which has recently emerged, that, according to the Oxford dictionary, is a gender-neutral way to refer to someone from a Latin American country, rather than the gendered terms Latino and Latina.
Considering the event was open to all students, not only those in S.A.L.S.A, Javae Cross and Jessica Chavez-Mondragon, both UNCG juniors studying biology and social work respectively, also attended the event.
UNCG junior, Jessica Chavez-Mondragon, said she felt as though events like these are important because “not many people are aware of the specifics about the Latin culture and it’s good for people to come in and explore and take a look at how it is and see how much they would like it.” Chavez-Mondragon also said that the Fiesta at the Fountain reminded her of a quinseañera, a coming of age tradition in Latin American culture, that celebrates a girl’s 15th birthday.
Event attendee and UNCG junior, Javae Cross, said, “The thing I like about these types of events is that it brings people together. Everyone’s dancing, even those who don’t know how to do the dances, are still trying something new.”
The dance performances began at 7.30 p.m., with three separate routines from the UNCG dance group, “Ritmo Latino.”
Once the performances concluded, S.A.L.S.A President, Natalia Newman said, “We hosted this event in honor of Hispanic Heritage month, we’re almost at the end of the month, and this is just a big bang to end off Hispanic Heritage month.” At this time, music was played for everyone to dance to as the deejay lights reflected on the cafeteria building and fountain.