Hispanic Heritage Month

“Bienvenidos! Welcome!” Since September 15, greeters at the door of the Hispanic Heritage Month events have been warmly welcoming all who were eager to learn. With over 27 activities relating to Hispanic culture, Hispanic Heritage Month offered an event for every type of interest.This is the third year WCU celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month. However, the celebrations are not only local; the festivities occur all over the nation. “On September 17, 1968, a Joint Resolution was passed by the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives designating ‘National Hispanic Heritage Week’,” claims the Hispanic Heritage Month Web site. The site also explains that the observance of the week was extended to a month of celebration in 1988. The celebrations begin annually on September 15, the anniversary of the independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras.Western Carolina University professor Patricia Hackett is responsible for bringing the celebration to WCU. Upon moving to the area, Hackett “noticed that there was nothing going on to celebrate diversity.” When she began Hispanic Heritage Month at WCU, her concern to educate students was coupled with her desire to unite the students and the community. “I was looking for an avenue to keep students connected,” she said.However, Hackett wasn’t prepared to take on Hispanic Heritage Month by herself. When she realized there was community interest, she began asking local businesses and committees to support the events of the month. Some, like the Jackson County Arts Council, have been involved all three years, she said. Each year more support is offered to the Hispanic Heritage Month Committee. This year there were over 35 community sponsors.Companies and organizations can get involved through sponsoring events, adding to the fund, or donating food. Guadalupe’s Café and El Pacifico are two such companies that volunteered refreshments this year. Some organizations, like Cullowhee Methodist Church, help out by hosting presentations. Students also helped out when necessary.This year, third-year Spanish students acted as translators at one Hispanic Heritage Month event, the First Annual Latino Health Fair. Hackett is encouraged by the student’s involvement in the celebrations. Because one of her original purposes was to increase community students’ interaction, she wants students to get involved any way they can.Those who attend the events are not required to speak Spanish, but there are plenty of opportunities to speak with members of the Hispanic community if you are interested in sharpening your language skills. Hundreds of WCU students and staff, community leaders, and Hispanic families attend the variety of events offered each year. And each year, people outside of the Hispanic culture are given the opportunity to learn more about another culture.Hispanic Heritage Month will culminate on Sunday, October 15 at the Swain County for the Arts, located in Bryson City. For more information about this event or Hispanic Heritage Month, please visit www.wcu.edu/as/MFL/hhm/index.asp.