Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off

Through food, dance and art, USF’s Hispanic community celebrated the beginning of a month devoted to recognizing the group’s heritage and culture.

For the start of October, USF’s Status of Latinos Committee joined with several other organizations on campus to host USF’s 25th annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration Kickoff event Tuesday night.

“What’s exciting about this event is that it is one of the few events at the university that brings together the students, faculty, staff and leaders within the community to come together to celebrate Hispanic heritage and acknowledge those who have contributed throughout the years to the Latin community,” SOL Chair Leonor O’Relly said.

Around 300 students and faculty members came to the Marshall Student Center Ballroom to listen to live music, learn about different Latin-culture organizations, meet Hispanic leaders within USF and sample traditional Spanish foods.

Nearly 30 organizations were showcased, where leaders within the organizations greeted students and faculty and presented what they do and how to get involved.

“Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming,” Sadia Jeny, a sophomore majoring in chemical engineering said. “It gives it such a homey feel.”

On the other side of the ballroom was a banquet-style ceremony, where students helped themselves to Hispanic food, including Spanish style yellow rice with black beans and pernil (roast pork).

Local artist David Rivera displayed some of his paintings, while classical and flamenco guitarist Daniel Giron performed for the first hour until the speakers were welcomed, including opening remarks by USF President Judy Genshaft.

“Tonight you’ll be meeting new scholarship winners and many accomplished people who have great thoughts, experiences and perspectives to share,” Genshaft said. “You’ll be celebrating some of the fabulous traditions that are unique to where you come from and where your families come from.”

Keynote speaker Myriam Irizarry then opened up to the crowd about her troubled life growing up and how she managed to make her mother’s dream come true by becoming a successful lawyer, despite the odds.

“We didn’t have to go to bed hungry anymore because we had welfare,” Irizarry said. “Little by little, it got better.”

Several students and faculty, who have contributed to the Hispanic community at USF, were recognized by the USF Empowerment Program, the Pathways Awards and the SOL Awards.

To maintain the lively atmosphere, dancers and singers came on stage to perform in between recognitions and award ceremonies.

The event ended with a dance and a raffle. The raffle winners were given a gift basket when they found one of three little green frogs placed on the back of their chairs. In Puerto Rican cultures, these frogs are known as “coquí.”

Several other events will be held in celebration of Hispanic heritage month, including Multicultural Latino Night on Oct. 8 in the MSC Ballroom, USF’s College of Education’s Outstanding Latino/a Educator Awards ceremony on Oct. 10 and a Café con Leche Networking on Oct. 15.