Hispanic Heritage Month has begun, and in celebration, Weber State University has a month full of events planned starting Sept. 15 and continuing until Oct. 15. The theme of this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month is “Esperanza.”
The celebratory month was kicked off with David Romero, a spoken word artist and performer, on Sept. 15 over Zoom.
Romero presented his spoken poems and Latinx, Hispanic and Mexican-American history in his keynote speech. The poems focused on a range of topics, including identity, immigration status, border conflict and cheese enchiladas.
He also gave the audience a look at his family’s history in the United States and the ways in which he internalized it.
Romero’s family has deep roots in the United States. His great-great grandparents lived through the Mexican-American War. Because they were living in an area of Mexico that was absorbed by the United States, they abruptly gained American citizenship.
Regarding his upbringing, Romero said his father’s side of the family believed in assimilating to American culture and leaving their own language and culture behind.
This changed one day when Romero’s father sat him down and said he needed to learn to be Latinx due to how much the world was changing.
Romero said in his keynote presentation that the U.S. will have more citizens of minority groups than white people by the year 2044. Additionally, a quarter of the minority population will be composed of Hispanic or Latinx people, mainly of Mexican descent.
According to WSU’s strategic plan, they anticipate becoming an Emerging Hispanic-Serving Institution, an institution which serves at least 15% of students who come from Hispanic or Latinx descent, by the fall of 2025.
As of fall 2020, 11% of WSU’s students were Hispanic or Latinx.
In addition to the keynote, there were two other events in the community on Sept. 15. One was the Bicentenario Celebration in Salt Lake City with the Mexican Consulate. The event included a “Grito de Independencia,” or “Cry of Independence,” in honor of Mexico’s Independence Day.
The Davis Applied Technology College cafeteria served Latin American food on Sept. 15. This will happen again on Sept. 22 and 29 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The food will cost between $4-10.
There are many other events planned throughout the rest of the heritage month on campus and in the community, including diversity meetings, art galleries, cultural performances and community service and resource events.
WSU’s Ballet Folklórico will hold a photo booth event in the Bell Tower plaza on Sept. 30 at 5 p.m. There will be live music by Carlos Eligio Garcia, and attendees will be able to take photos with the dancers.
The Ogden Contemporary Art and Shaw Gallery Project Space at WSU will be opening the “Vida, Muerte, Justicia” exhibit of 21st century Latin American and Latinx art on Oct. 1.
There will be an Agustín Casasola art exhibit displayed in the bridge between Shepherd Union and the Student Services Center throughout the month of October, backed by Access and Diversity and the Center for Multicultural Excellence.
The Hispanic Area Council will be hosting a family-friendly puppet show titled “La Conquista de América | Yo Sé Quién Sabe, Lo Que Usted No Sabe” over Zoom on Oct. 9 at 11 a.m.
WSU states on their Strategic Plan web page that one of their values is “embracing all identities through the promotion of belonging, creativity, uniqueness and self-expression.”
Another one of their core themes has to do with access, in which they aim to provide an affordable and quality education for all students, regardless of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.
This sentiment is felt throughout the student body, specifically with WSU’s 2021-22 Hispanic Senator Stefanie Vazquez.
Despite the small size of the Hispanic and Latinx community at WSU, Vazquez still feels like the university makes sure the students feel like they have a place on campus.
However, there are still many steps the university can take to make its students feel more welcome, as Leticia Mata Rodriguez, one of WSU Ballet Folklórico’s leaders, said.
Rodriguez, Vazquez and Guadalupe Garcia, another WSU Ballet Folklórico leader, shared their experiences of trying to promote the Hispanic Heritage Month events by posting on social media and putting posters up around campus.
The three noticed the lack of promotion from the university and other departments. They said the only ones putting effort into promoting the events were the Center for Multicultural Excellence and the people involved in the events.
Recommendations for improvement they gave included showing the promotional poster on TVs and computers around campus and also sharing it on WSU’s main social media accounts.
“I feel like we don’t get so much support from the university itself, and I know it’s slowly growing, but we still need the support from different departments on campus making sure that students are involved in these events that we are creating for them,” Rodriguez said.