Latino Heritage month celebrates empowerment

The 2010 Latin Heritage Month Committee held its annual Latino Heritage Dinner on Thursday to celebrate the different cultures of Latin America and recognize the hard-work of the organizations involved in hosting the events.

The dinner was held in the D’ Angelo Center Ballroom where traditional Latin American food was served. The celebration dinner also featured introductory prayers, a key-note speaker, live performances, and music. 

The dinner was part of a long line of events emphasizing the theme of this year’s Latino Heritage Month; “Celebrating History and Empowering Communities”. 

Nashia Whittenburg, associate director of multicultural affairs, felt that the dinner was an excellent demonstration of Latino pride and that it successfully celebrated the contributions of multicultural organizations on campus.

“I loved the great turnout of the dinner and I think it was excellent that our students came out to the event dressed professionally,” Whittenburg said. 

“Latino Heritage Month is always one of the most passionate time periods that involves students who participate in multicultural events, and it seems like this year will be no exception” she added. 

Members of most Latino fraternities and sororities, the Latin American Students Organization (L.A.S.O.), and Los Unidos Dance Group assisted in facilitating and coordinating the dinner. 

One member of Lambda Pi Upsilon Sorority, Inc. and two members of Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity, Inc. were presented with awards for outstanding student leadership. 

Maggie Bach, coordinator of Leadership Development and service, was also awarded for her involvement in planning Latino Heritage Month events. 

Former soccer star Angela Hucles, the key-note speaker of the event, spoke about areas of her life as a professional soccer player in the United States. She emphasized the importance of work ethic and of taking pride of one’s accomplishments. 

“The key to success as a person striving to achieve their goals is working hard, having fun, believing in yourself, and maintaining balance in your life,” Hucles said. 

Hucles has won two Olympic gold medals and participated in two World Cup Championships with the United States Women’s National Soccer Team. 

She was also a player for the Boston Breakers, a professional women’s soccer team in the Women’s United Soccer Association. 

“Always find the strength within your community and your surroundings and use it to your advantage,” she said. 

Student leaders who assisted in organizing the Latino Heritage Dinner and other Latino Heritage Month events felt that the event was a success because of the significant amount of people who attended that were not just Latino. 

“I was very excited that many people of different cultures came out to the event because it perfectly symbolizes the beauty of a large multicultural presence here at St. John’s,” said Vanessa Lopez, president of L.A.S.O.,

Lopez said that the main goal of this year’s Latino Heritage Dinner was to attract students outside of the Latino culture in order to cultivate a sense of unity. 

“The best part of it all is that since my freshman year on campus, Latino Heritage evolved from being a week to becoming a month and is also beginning to incorporate all cultures,” she said. 

Preparations for Italian Heritage Month, Black History Month, and other multicultural celebrations are already in the works. Whittenburg, who will be directing most of these events, offers a proactive stance on improving future Latino Heritage Month celebrations. 

“For next year’s Latino Heritage Month celebrations, I want to see more students actively involved and more educational programs being presented,” Whittenburg said. 

“If you haven’t already involved yourself in these celebrations, come out and support,” she added. “If you have already involved yourself, continue the excellent work,” she added. 

Latino Heritage Month will continue to feature a few more movie nights, karaoke events, and luncheons. Towards the middle of October academic and political events like the “Arizona Immigration Law Debate” and “Hugo Chavez and Left-Winged Politics” will conclude the month of celebrations