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Questions and answers about Hispanic Heritage Month

Picture of last year's Hispanic Heritage Month flag raising.

Picture of last year's Hispanic Heritage Month flag raising.

Photo by Aeriel Storey

Photo by Aeriel Storey

Picture of last year's Hispanic Heritage Month flag raising.


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Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated annually on the UIS campus, with various events hosted by the Diversity Center, Women’s Center, and Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS) arranged to celebrate and educate on the contributions of Hispanic Americans.

The Journal chatted with Coordinator of Programs and Outreach for the Diversity Center, Sophia Gelhausen, and Hinda Sief, an associate professor who specializes in Latino studies and a former adviser to OLAS, about what students can expect from this year’s events.

1) What is Hispanic Heritage Month? What is Diversity Center’s goal regarding the month?

SG: National Hispanic Heritage Month honors the culture, heritage, and contributions of Hispanic Americans each year. The event began in 1968 when Congress deemed the week including Sept. 15 and 16 National Hispanic Heritage Week to celebrate the contributions and achievements of the diverse cultures within the Hispanic community.

It was not until 1988 that the event was expanded to month-long period, which includes El Dia de la Raza on Oct. 12, which celebrates the influences of the people who came after Christopher Columbus and the multicultural, multi ethnic society that evolved as a result; Chile’s Independence Day on Sept. 18; and Belize’s Independence Day on Sept. 21.

Each year a different theme for the month is selected and a poster is created to reflect that theme. This year our them is “Learning Today – Leading Tomorrow” and our goal is to emphasize the importance of education in forming tomorrow’s leaders. We are looking forward to an exciting month of celebrating Hispanic/Latino culture and achievements.

2) How can students benefit from Hispanic Heritage Month?

HS: Today, Latinos are the largest minority group in Illinois and the United States.

About 17 percent of people in Illinois are Latino, and more than 45 percent of the children in the Chicago Public School system (K-12) are Latino. It is important that we all learn about and celebrate these cultures so we are ready for a diverse workplace, and so we can be more informed citizens and better neighbors. It’s also fun!

SG: Students can benefit in many ways from celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.

They can learn about the political and cultural achievements of Hispanic Americans by attending one of the two ECCE events … They can enjoy Hispanic culture, including food, music, and dance at the Flag Raising Ceremony, the Hispanic Heritage Month Closing Party, and one of several student organization fundraisers like the Tostada Sale sponsored by Gamma Phi Omega International Sorority, Inc. on Sept. 19 – 20 in the PAC Food Emporium.

They can educate themselves on current events related to the Hispanic/Latino population in the U.S. by attending David Romero – Spoken Word Artist: The Latinx Giant on Sept. 26; and the Soup and Conversation on Immigration Reform on Oct. 6.

And finally, they can meet alumni and learn about their professional experiences at the Alumni Brunch and Mixer on Saturday, Oct. 7.

3) What event(s) are you most looking forward to this year?

SG: I am most looking forward to meeting Sylvia Mendez on Sept. 18; and the Alumni Brunch and Mixer on Oct. 7.

4) How do you anticipate this year being different from last year?

HS: There are many important debates occurring in the United States today about the place of Latinos in U.S. society, the well-being of Puerto Rico and its people, and the relationship of the U.S. with Mexico, Latin America, and Hispanic Caribbean countries such as Cuba. … This year, it is especially important that students and members of the Central Illinois community consider these debates in an informed manner and that UIS provide a welcoming, supportive, and inclusive campus environment for all students, including Latinos.

SG: The main event that will be different this year is the Alumni Brunch on Oct. 7.

This is something that we have thought about doing for a couple of years so I am glad that it is finally happening. I am really excited about bringing past and current students together to discuss their professional experiences and career plans with each other.

Personally, I look forward to seeing those students again whom I haven’t seen in a couple of years; but also, this is a great opportunity for current students and alumni alike.

5) What else would you like students to know about Hispanic Heritage Month, either in general or in regards to the Diversity Center’s specific plans?

SG: The Diversity Center is teaming up with the Women’s Center to host a Women’s Empowerment Luncheon with Sylvia Mendez at noon in PAC G on Monday, Sept. 18. The entire campus community is invited, but space is limited so you must RSVP to attend at: We are honored to have Ms. Mendez visit our campus, and I hope we will have a good turnout at this luncheon to welcome her.

HS: Most U.S. Latinos are descendents of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, with roots going back over a thousands of years.

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Award winning, student run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield..
Questions and answers about Hispanic Heritage Month