Latin American food festivals, dance classes and a lecture from a Nobel-Prize-winner are among the highlights of the Hispanic Heritage Celebration “Fiesta 2003” being at USF throughout October and November.
A celebration dating back to the late 1980s, has united members of the Tampa Bay community as well as the USF population in an effort to expose other cultures to the Latino Heritage traditions.
Donna Perrino, executive director of Engaging Latino Communities for Education, was assigned to create a Latin Community Advisory Committee at USF.
“In 1988, then USF President Francis Borkowski wanted to establish closer relations with the Latino community,” Perrino said. “(Borkowski) asked me to organize and coordinate a USF Latin Community Advisory Committee, which is in its 15th year.”
The mission of the committee, Perrino said, is to advise the USF president on issues related to the representation of Latinos at USF.
“I think the demographics, particularly after the 2000 Census, have been a wake up call to (the United States)” Perrino said. “Not so much for celebration but for advocacy and for dealing with issues having to do with Latinos such as education, health care, housing and jobs.”
According to Perrino, one of the first recommendations the committee made to Borkowski was to implement a Hispanic Heritage celebration at USF.
“In 1989, USF had its first Hispanic Heritage celebration that consisted of a one-day reception at the Sun Dome,” she said. “At first it was just a faculty-staff celebration. Then (USF administration) thought (the celebration) needed to involve students.”
In addition, the Advisory Committee felt it needed to address more issues affecting the Latino community. From there the USF Latinos Association was created, Perrino said.
Jose Hernandez, chairman of the USF Hispanic Heritage Committee and director of the Diversity and Equal Opportunity Office, said the celebration has grown each year.
“Many student organizations have contributed as well as departments on campus and community organizations,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez, who has been at USF for the last three years, said the USF Hispanic Heritage celebration is in conjunction with the national celebration.
He added that the celebration is important because it brings awareness about Hispanic heritage.
“Paying attention to the (Hispanic) culture and its history and the legacy that Hispanics have provided the (United States) strengthens the community,” he said.
As part of the event, Nobel-Prize-winning chemist Dr. Mario Molina, who co-discovered the hole in the ozone layer, will give a lecture on global climate on Oct. 16. Molina was selected as Hispanic Scientist of the Year by the Museum Of Science & Industry.
Carime Hernandez, USF student and co-chairwoman of the USF Hispanic Heritage Celebration Committee, said in addition to her organization there are many other organizations and community-based associations sponsoring events throughout the month-long celebration.
In all, 24 organizations are involved in organizing various events within the festival. They include numerous student associations such as the Mexican American Student Association, the Latin American Student Association and the Spanish Club. USF departments such as the World Language Department and the USF President’s Office are also supporting the events this month. Associations and organizations from the community including the Tampa Museum of Art and MOSI are also participating.
Hernandez said the event is important in exposing students to Latino culture.
“USF is very diverse. We do have a lot of Hispanics,” she said. “The point of (this celebration) is to share a part of (the Latin community) with the rest of the population.
“For (Latinos,) this is an event (they) should embrace. Even though, (Latinos) are far away from (their) countries, (they) should still celebrate (this month).”
Juan Pineda, also a co-chairman of the celebration and president of LASA, said his role in the committee is to involve different USF student organizations and students in the festivities.
Pineda, a Colombian native, said the significance of having a month to celebrate his Latin roots is an event that shows Latinos’ history in their communities as well as their hopes for their community within American society.
“Once we leave our countries, we miss our food, our traditions,” Pineda said. “This (celebration) is just a way to commemorate all the things the (Latin community) has done and all of the things the (Latin) community (strives) for.”
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Web site, the Hispanic Heritage Month has existed since 1988 as a national recognized celebration. Ronald Reagan, then U.S. president, said it was a “well deserved” honor for the Latin community to be recognized as an important part of American society.
As part of the celebration, YO SOY LATINA, a show about six Latinas and their experiences as second and third generation Latina-Americans in the United States, stopped at USF during its college tour on Tuesday night.
Pineda added that some of the issues raised during Tuesday night’s performance are concerns every Latino could relate to, such as a strong emphasis on the family.
“(Discrimination) might exists among Latinos,” Pineda said. “But, all (Latinos) are the same when it comes to family. (Latinos) have a strong family unit.”
For more information and a list of events taking place, visit the USF Web Event Calender at http://webcal.usf.edu/cgi-bin/webevent.cgi .