Hispanic Heritage Month adds zest, with food, music

Hispanic Heritage Month adds zest, with food, music

By Cynthia Retamoza

Pride in one’s heritage is pride in one’s self. Showing its strong Hispanic pride, the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) is hosting various events from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 to celebrate its culture with Hispanic Heritage Month.

These events will touch on topics such as history, culture, music, leadership and community service.

On Sept. 21, LASO held two events promoting awareness of diversity and Hispanic culture.

The first event of the day, “La Ribbean Fusion Food Festival,” which took place mid-afternoon at Centennial Commons. Students got a chance to taste foods from countries such as Peru, Cuba and Jamaica.

LASO members Jonathan Hernandez, a junior marketing and management major, and Andres Olivo, a middler political science major, planned and led the event. Both agreed that although there were a few obstacles in putting it together, the event was successful with a huge student turnout.

“It took a lot of teamwork to put this event together,” Hernandez said. “But everything turned out good. There was a really diverse group of students there.”

The festival’s food lines extended well into Centennial Commons, with students eager to try a foreign meal. LASO members served Caribbean and South American-style pork, potatoes, rice and salad.

Victoria Sandoval, a freshman journalism major, said the food was not only tasty, but a learning experience of its own.

“I never tasted food prepared in that way,” Sandoval said. “It was very good, and it was great that students were given the chance to try food from other countries.”

As students enjoyed their foreign meal, they were also treated to the music of Unknown Territory. The Berklee College-based band mainly plays jazz, salsa, merengue and soul.

LASO President Luisa Pena said she was proud of how the event turned out.

“I wanted Northeastern students to be exposed to different types of food and music,” she said. “It is always good to get people to try new things.”

Students were able to explore hispanic culture beyond food and dive into some of its deeper aspects with LASO’s second event of the day, “Latinos in Literature.”

Latina author Esmeralda Santiago spoke in 318-320 Curry Student Center on various issues involving ethnic identity.

Students were given the opportunity to purchase some of Santiago’s work, including “When I Was Puerto Rican” and “Almost a Woman,” and the author autographed the books after her talk.

Santiago immigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico when she was 13 years old, and studied at some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions, including Harvard University.

After graduating magna cum laude, Santiago went back to Puerto Rico, where she was told she had become too Americanized to be considered Puerto Rican. She told students this ethnic identity crisis led her to become a writer.

In her memoirs, Santiago talks about the struggle during her youth to be simultaneously American and Puerto Rican, a struggle she said many Hispanic people similarly face today.

Santiago told LASO members to be proud of being bilingual and of their Hispanic status.

“You become a person of many nations and a person of the world,” she said. “Being able to speak another language is having access to many other nations.”

Santiago also spoke of the importance of having different perspectives. She stressed that by being of Hispanic heritage and growing up in America, one has the opportunity to have at least two different perspectives on various issues, including ethnic identity and immigration. She said this leads to more understanding and less aggression in the world.

Shabe Switzereerrios, a freshman political science major, said she found Santiago very insightful and inspiring.

“Her talk made me stop and realize what it is like to be a Puerto Rican or multicultural person in America,” Switzereerrios said. “It is a struggle, but a struggle I can get through.”

As her closing statement, Santiago told students to go on a mandado (Spanish for “an errand,” or in this case, “a mission”) to “learn compassion, to use and express your Latin identity, to not be complacent, to be active, to fight, vote and create leaders.”

To learn more about Hispanic heritage, students can attend upcoming Hispanic Heritage Month events.

On Sept. 27, LASO will be presenting a “Parade of Flags” on Krentzman Quad from 11:45-1:25 p.m. This event celebrates ‘Dia de la Raza,” a Latin American holiday corresponding to Columbus Day.

On Sept. 28, students can attend the “Inca Son Workshop” at the African American Institute’s Cabral Center from 6 – 8:30 p.m. Music and dance of the Andes Mountains of Peru and Latin America will be on exhibit.

For more information on other Hispanic Heritage Month events, visit LASO’s website at www.laso.neu.edu.

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