This year’s events include lotería, piñata making and Inclusive Conversations tackling issues relevant to the Hispanic community, in a series titled “ESPERANZA: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.”
Angel Jones, visiting professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning hosted an Inclusive Conversation titled “También Somos Latinxs (We are also Latinxs): Addressing Anti-Blackness in the Latinx Community.” Inclusive Conversations is a series of discussions of various cultural topics. “Latinx” is a recently coined gender neutral term used in place of “Latino” or “Latina,” which has generated controversy within the community.
Jones, who is an Afro-Latina, said she felt it was important to give the talk because people often don’t talk about the Black experience within Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, and she was hoping to open peoples’ minds to allow them to see that Afro-Latinos are members of the Latinx community too.
“I think a lot of times when people think of the Latinx community they have one image of what a Latina looks like, and a lot of us don’t fall into that category, don’t live up to that made-up standard,” Jones said. “We’re often left out of the conversation, or our identities are questioned and not seen as valid because we look different, so for me it was important to make sure that as an Afro-Latina, that I told my story and that hopefully left space for other Afro-Latinas to be able to tell their story as well.”
Jones said she was encouraged by how the conversation went.
“I think I would’ve liked to see more folks here, but I actually didn’t expect a lot of them, because this is a topic that people don’t normally talk about,” Jones said. “So I’m hoping that next time there’ll be even more people, but I was encouraged by those who were here.”
Olga Bezhanova, chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, hosted an Inclusive Conversation on the topic of the Spanish language in the U.S. She discussed how the use of the Spanish language in the U.S. has been growing and has been projected to grow more in the next 20 to 30 years.
“Very often, people speak about this as something new, like, ‘We’re seeing all the Spanish speakers around …’ but the interesting issue is that the Spanish language has been used in what today is the United States for over 400 years. [The] Spanish language was used on this continent before the English language ever was,” Bezhanova said.
Bezhanova said she hopes that people took away an understanding of how rich, vibrant, complex and diverse the Hispanic culture is.
“There’s always more and more knowledge that we can gain, and I gave a little glimpse into some of the things that I find fascinating and don’t always get talked about, and with the hope that people would be motivated to learn more,” Bezhanova said.
Bezhanova said the topic is important for Hispanic Heritage Month because the university is working to attract more Spanish-speaking students, and needs to be relevant to those students.
“We always collaborate with the Hispanic Heritage Month because our department at the university is a place that offers courses on the history, the language, the culture, the Hispanic world, and we really want to bring more awareness to campus that there’s a wealth of amazing cultural resources and experiences that we can find among our Hispanic student population, professors and prospective students,” Bezhanova said.
Jones said she is in favor of the university’s use of “Latinx” in the title “Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month.”
“That’s the term that I use and I feel like it is more inclusive and open than some of the previous terms,” Jones said.
Bezhanova said Spanish is a gendered language, as all languages derived from Roman are, and while Spanish speakers are very proud of their language, the fact that it’s gendered is not ideological.
“For example, the table in Spanish is female and the floor is male, for no ideological reason,” Bezhanova said. “Part of diversity is opening yourself up to a language that has a different linguistic reality, a different grammar reality, and that doesn’t come in any sort of conflict with ideas that one might have.”
J.T. Snipes, assistant professor of educational leadership, said he attended “También Somos Latinxs” to learn more about the role of anti-Blackness in Latinx communities.
“I think the first step to transforming things is understanding … provide some awareness and consciousness around issues of exclusion within marginalized communities,” Snipes said.