Even in a pandemic, Hispanic Heritage Month is still a time to be exposed to various Latinx cultures connected around the world, and Latinx students and faculty at UNC are still finding ways to celebrate virtually.
Geovani Ramírez, a postdoctoral research assistant for the English and comparative literature department, focuses on multiethnic and Latinx literatures. He said people should use the month, which started on Sept. 15, as a launching pad to not only learn about Latinx cultures, but also engage with them.
“I think that's a really necessary component to all of this," Ramírez said. "It isn't just about reading about people, it's about engaging with them."
The UNC Latina/o Studies Program has events and programs throughout the year that delve into many Latinx topics as well as a minor program. Students can take different classes and have the opportunity to connect to undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty to make Hispanic Heritage Month a yearlong learning experience.
Marcy Pedzwater, graduate research assistant and project coordinator of LSP Graduate Teaching Initiatives, specializes in contemporary Latinx and Latin American literatures and also finds Hispanic Heritage Month a good time to learn more. However, she thinks it's always important.
“The program connects people with backgrounds in a variety of different academic disciplines,” Pedzwater said. “It can be refreshing to get to learn from, be in conversation with and connect with this community, especially in the middle of this pandemic.”
There are many different ways to celebrate Latinx heritages, and it does not always have to be in a formal setting. Usually Eynisa Morrison, the co-social chairperson at UNC Afro-Latinx, would go to a city-wide event in her hometown of Raleigh that features Latinx food, music and a dance showcase.
But this year, she is making up for not being able to go by keeping in contact with her Latinx family and friends, and sharing and appreciating the heritage they have.
“I don't have a set-in-stone way that I'm celebrating,” Morrison said. “...Whether it be through simple conversations about appreciating our culture or cooking different Hispanic recipes or watching movies.”
During a pandemic it can feel increasingly hard to celebrate, but there are still online events to learn more and get involved.
“I am really excited for the 'poetry books in the age of corona’ event on Sept. 30,” Pedzwater said. “I know that emilio just published a poetry collection, and I am hoping to hear more about the poetry collection and listen to and engage in the conversation about poetry's place in the midst of a global pandemic.”
Students are invited to go to the UNC Latina/o Studies Program website and join the listserv for year-round updates about Latinx events and classes, and to learn more about Latinx cultures and the program itself.
“Whenever we talk about Latinx people, the first thing that we have to acknowledge is the fact that there is not one but many heritages. Latinx people are so ethno-, racially, linguistically diverse,” Ramírez said. “You have to take all of these different diverse social categories that define these diverse groups and acknowledge that we do not have one shared experience. There is literally not one social category that we can say defines all Latinx people aside from the fact that we are all (of) Latin American heritage.”
By taking advantage of different opportunities to be involved or joining different Latinx groups, learning about Latinx cultures can go beyond a one-month celebration.
“Even though it is Hispanic Heritage Month it is always a good thing to celebrate your heritage every day of the year,” Morrison said.
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