National Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity for us to pause and reflect on the many significant contributions Latinos have made—and continue to make—to the United States’ history and culture. On campus, Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations are the product of the Case Western Reserve University’s Alianza Latina or Latino Alliance, who aims to bring together faculty and staff from across campus to celebrate Latino culture, engage in public service and support students of similar heritage.
“What’s special about planning Hispanic Heritage Month is how all the various facets of the community come together to produce a month-long celebration,” says Alianza Latina’s executive sponsor and Vice President for Research and Technology Management Dr. Suzanne M. Rivera. The events are planned by students, staff, faculty and administrators from every corner of the campus and, with few exceptions, are free and open to the broader public. Rivera highlights that “by inviting Greater Cleveland to participate in these events, we strengthen our connections to the Latino community in Northeast Ohio and build bridges of friendship with others who want to learn more about Hispanic culture.”
Hispanic Heritage Month shines the spotlight not only on Latino culture, but on the contributions of immigrants, their descendants and their legacy in the United States. Marina Corleto, a double alumn of CWRU and a member of Alianza Latina, says “we all benefit from the diversity as a result, and in these politically divisive times we’re living in, anything that brings us together and celebrates what binds us and makes us stronger and more interesting is worthwhile in my book.”
Corleto is an immigrant from Argentina, and her mother’s roots in Cleveland are tied to the Slovenian community. Corleto underlines that from the time she was a student to being an alumni and on the staff now, she has valued both the diversity that exists in Cleveland and on campus and the efforts to increase it, including Hispanic Heritage Month.
“Incredible things can happen when people of different backgrounds get together, but being part of a minority group has its challenges, so my colleagues and I on Alianza are grateful for the camaraderie and support we give each other,” says Corleto.
Alianza Latina works in coordination with the Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity and with the Office for Multicultural Affairs to put together activities that are not only appealing for the university community, but also that represent the values and contributions of the Hispanic population in the United States. For instance, one of the speakers this year was journalist Ray Suárez, who talked about the changing racial and ethnic dynamics in the United States.
“We put a lot of effort and time to plan theses activities, and there is a group of people very committed and involved in making them a success,” comments Associate Professor of Spanish Damaris Puñales-Alpízar.
There are about 55 million Hispanic people in the United States, and their contributions range from fruit fields to science to medicine to education, touching every aspect of life. Having a month to celebrate it here at the university is a way of celebrating not only the Hispanic population and their contributions within our academic community, but also the diversity and richness of our university space. For Puñales-Alpízar, Hispanic Heritage Month is “a window to let others know about our culture and history but also about our concerns and hopes,” and that is what Alianza Latina hopes to convey with the different events that they coordinate.
Alianza Latina starts planning these events a year in advance. This year, to close the celebrations, CWRU will host the XV Ohio Latin American Conference. Scholars and students from not only Ohio, but also other states will come to share their academic research in different areas, all related to Latin America.