Every year from September 15th to October 15th, people come together to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month. The perhaps seemingly random timing of starting on the 15th stems from its history. When it first began in 1968, it was only a week long, however, it was extended to a month-long celebration in 1988. September 15th was chosen because it was the independence day of many Latin American countries including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence days during this week as well, with Mexico celebrating it on the 16th of September and Chile on the 18th. By extending it to a full month, the period also encompasses Columbus day, or rather Día de la Raza.
Similar to how there has been an effort to replace Columbus day with Indigenous People’s Day, many Spanish-speaking countries choose to honor the victims of European colonialism with “Día de la Raza,” or “Day of the Race,” on October 12th. The day is meant to honor the memories, traditions, and cultures of the civilizations that fell victim to Columbus and his successors. “Día de la Raza” is an officially recognized holiday in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Uruguay. However, other countries also celebrate the same idea under a different name, with “Hispanic Heritage Day” taking place in Spain, “Respect to Cultural Diversity Day” in Argentina, and “Indigenous Resistance Day” being the preferred name in Nicaragua and Venezuela.
At Boston College, the main goal for Hispanic Heritage Month this year was to “further the sense of unity among the Latinx population on campus,” according to OLAA’s (Organization for Latin American Affairs) Co-Director of Social and Political Action Layla Saenz. The opening event, run by the BAIC, combined community member speeches, food, and dances, with a flag display showcasing the nationalities of hispanic individuals. OLAA’s programming included the unveiling of the El Principio Familia Reveal, which launched the club’s annual family system. Family systems, a staple of culture clubs here at BC, aim to bring upper and lower classmen together into smaller groups to encourage connections and bonds. Hispanic Heritage Month club events were not just the realm of OLAA and the Bowman center, however—PRSA (Puerto Rican Student Association), El Centro (Central American Student Organization), and L’Association Haïtienne all had general meetings celebrating the month. CASA (Cuban American Student Association) held a domino night, while MAS (Mexican Association of Students) ran a lotteria night. DABC (Dominican American Association of BC) held the last event of the month, Dance on My Block, a dance event with performances from many different Latino clubs.
For Layla, the month was a huge success. OLAA, as the umbrella organization for the Latin American culture clubs, played a large role in coordinating the month’s activities, and she was glad that the club was able to bring representation to the Latino community here on BC’s campus. “It sheds light on all of the rich history and culture of all the countries. It just always makes me so happy seeing Latinx culture being proudly displayed and shown off.”