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A celebration of Latinx heritage at Mills

Latinx Heritage Month (LHM), or Hispanic Heritage month, is celebrated from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Mills and the Latinx club on campus, Mujeres Unidas, celebrates the month by hosting an array of events including the LHM kick-off, Ballet Folklorico and dinner at Founder’s. These events serve to celebrate and share the culture with the community.

To incorporate the anniversaries of Latin American independence, the celebration of Latinx Heritage spans one month. Five countries observe their independence days on Sept. 15: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, and Mexico on Sept. 16, Chile on Sept.18 and Belize on Sept. 21. 

LHM is for students to bring a piece of their culture and home to campus.  For others, it’s an understanding and appreciation of a different culture.

Sophomore Gladis Munguia, who identifies as a Salvadorian American Latina, previously attended schools that didn’t observe LHM and was not aware that September begins LHM until she came to Mills last fall.

“I grew up in a household that spoke predominately Spanish,” Munguia said. “Being Latina was just who I was, I wasn’t told much about it, like I didn’t know the history of my country.”

Mujeres Unidas, has been working alongside the Ethnic Studies Department, Diversity and Social Justice Resource Center, Associated Students of Mills College and School of Education to host events throughout the month.

One recent event that Mujeres Unidas hosted was the Ballet Folklorico workshop on Sept. 11.  Participants met in the Student Union to attend a lecture and learn choreography from instructor Steven Koneffklatt of Ballet Folklorico Costa De Oro. 

“I liked the diversity of students that were [present],” class of ’78 alumnae Albertina Zarazúa Padilla said about the event.  “I liked the history and flourishes in some of the steps and how some dances have evolved or changed. He spoke about dances from 50 years ago and I remember them.”

Padilla thinks that the sisterhood she saw at the event should be integral to curriculum and daily life. 

“The importance is that it serves to share our stories and serves a solid foundation for Latina students to participate in a global world future,” Padilla said. “When you’re strong in foundation, you’re strong all around and strong in your story.”

President of Mujeres Unidas, junior Laura Elizarraras, has been working closely with her fellow club members to put together fun and educational events for the community.

“Planning LHM has been tougher than I expected, due to the small amount of officers and total members that we have, but has also been a reality check on how challenging event planning can really be,” Elizarraras said. 
Elizarraras, who joined Mujeres Unidas her first year at Mills, felt a strong support system and space. She makes it her own goal now to make sure the club does the same for its current and future members. That includes making sure that LHM at Mills is at least shared with the whole community to teach everyone about the different Latinx cultures.
“It gives us a chance to be proud of who we are,” Elizarraras said. “I strive to build safe spaces for them because these spaces are not often offered to us as people of color in higher education, therefore I make it my duty to give them something that private institutions lack to give.”
Upcoming LHM events include the “Yo Soy”  Monologues on Sept. 24, the Caribe Carnaval Dance and the Faculty and Staff Appreciation Dinner. Elizarraras hopes that the Mills community will continue to participate in this month of cultural education. 
“I hope that those who identify as Latinx find a great connection to their cultural backgrounds and are motivated to further invest in themselves, ” Elizarraras said. “For our allies, I hope to educate them on our traditions and hopefully they will get inspired to learn more about our heritage. This way, they will respect, understand and not appropriate Latinx culture. But overall, I seek for everyone to have a great time and lots of fun!”