Hispanics celebrate heritage year round

September 24, 2003
Truman Index

“Adelante,” which means moving forward, is the motto of the Hispanic American Leadership Organization because it strives to promote awareness of the Hispanic culture.

“We feel like there is a lack of diversity at Truman, especially with Hispanics,” HALO president senior Matt Wilson said. “It is important to let the students, regardless of ethnic background, but especially Hispanic students, know that there is a group here to support and help them.”

Junior Vanessa Hernandez, HALO social chairwoman, said she thinks Kirksville is not diverse compared to cities like Chicago, her hometown.

“It is nice to find small groups that do try to promote diversity on campus,” Hernandez said.

Supporting students is not the only part of HALO’s mission statement.

“Basically [HALO wants] to promote all Hispanic cultures and provide Hispanic students with a resource at school and educate the Truman population on what our culture stands for,” Hernandez said.

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, HALO is hosting a slew of events. These events include guest speakers, festivals and movies.

HALO will welcome a speaker from Orange County, Calif., Yolanda Alvarez, at 8 tonight in Violette Hall 1010.

Alvarez will discuss segregation in Orange County between Hispanic, Mexican and white populations. She also will showcase an exhibit of historic photographs titled “Fire in the Morning,” Wilson said.

The exhibit will provide a social commentary on the lives of Mexican-Americans and explain the migratory experience.

“The pictures focus on celebrations, festivals, work and play as people adjust to living in a new culture and country,” said Bertha Thomas, interim assistant dean of the Multicultural Affairs Center.

Bringing Alvarez in to speak is just another way for HALO to promote awareness.

“Typically in our history books you don’t see Hispanic culture very much,” Wilson said. “This is something that we thought would apply to a lot of people: history majors, people who are interested in pictures or just interested in learning about another culture. We wanted to reach out to as many students as possible.”

HALO, in collaboration with MAC, will have a Hispanic festival at 7 p.m. Oct. 2 in Ryle Hall Main Lounge.

There will be crafts for children sponsored by the Spanish-speaking house in Centennial Hall, Casa Hispanica, and performances by dancers from Club Viva in St. Louis. The dancers will teach students some Latin dances.

Local Mexican restaurants will set up tables with samples of different foods from Latin-American countries.

“Food is such a great way to spread culture,” Thomas said.

Because of the shift in demographics in Northeast Missouri, there also will be a small panel discussion to talk about the changing face of the area, Thomas said.

The two panelists are Stephen Hadwiger, assistant professor of nursing, and Valentina Mensa, director of the Milan Latino Center.

Cherayla Davis, MAC interim program coordinator, said having the festival is a way for students to come together and have fun.

“[Students] have a good time and still celebrate and learn,” Davis said. “It’s kind of like an osmosis process.”

HALO will celebrate the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo by showing the movie “Frida,” starring Salma Hayek, at 8 p.m. Oct. 9 in Violette 1000.

“[The movie] shows a positive contribution by Hispanics to the art world,” Hernandez said.

Not only will HALO be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month on the Truman campus, but Hernandez and sophomore Laura Corona will be in Chicago on Friday and Saturday for the 21st annual United States Hispanic Leadership Institute conference, the largest conference in the United States for Latinos, Wilson said.

“We thought we could learn something from what they had to offer,” Corona said. “We’re a pretty new organization, and we thought they might have ideas on how to better spread awareness of Hispanic heritage on campus.”

This four-day function offers political workshops to students that promote leadership in the community.

Hispanic Heritage Month is not the only time HALO strives to promote awareness of Hispanic culture. HALO members also provide a service of helping other Hispanics speak English.

Members go to Milan, Mo., every Wednesday to help the Hispanic residents at the Latino Center. Members translate and tutor during the conversation classes Wednesday.

“We speak with them in English and help little kids with homework,” Corona said.

Wilson and other members of the Hispanic fraternities and sororities organized HALO in the fall of 2002.

“We talked about doing something to reach out more to students who weren’t Greek,” Wilson said.

Wilson said this was a very successful recruiting endeavor.

“Some of the members that are here now [are students] we spoke with last semester,” Wilson said.

Sometimes HALO interacts and collaborates with other student organizations such as the International Club, Casa Hispanica and the Spanish Club to promote awareness of a variety of different cultures, Wilson said.

Right now, the group has 20 members. Membership is open to anyone, regardless of ethnicity, Wilson said.

“We have people in our group who aren’t Hispanic at all,” Wilson said. “We’re open to anyone who is interested in learning about our culture.”

HALO has meetings at 8 p.m. every Sunday in the Adair building next to E.C. Grim Hall and across from Violette.

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