Hispanic Heritage Month started as Hispanic Heritage Week back in 1968, but expanded to become a celebration that lasted a whole month in 1988. The celebration, which takes place from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, is designed to celebrate the contributions made by Hispanic Americans to American culture.
LPC has embraced Hispanic Heritage Month by setting up a list of events to spread awareness for the month long celebration. The Puente Club has also been influential in celebrating this month as they have been active in helping spread awareness for this month by hosting virtual events, creating masks that they will give out to the community and encouraging young Hispanic students to vote in this upcoming election.
According to Community College Review, Hispanic students make up about 26% of the student body. Many live in the Tri-Valley. LPC faculty and staff wanted to make sure that Hispanic students can feel represented by celebrating this month properly and by spreading awareness about the trials and tribulations that many Hispanic Americans have to go through throughout the history of the United States.
“It is important to celebrate this month because many groups in the United States have been marginalized and these months give us a chance to reflect on our history as well as having the chance to educate others,” said Michelle Gonzales, an English professor and advisor for Puente Club.
As the Hispanic population grows in the United States, the population of Hispanic students at LPC has also grown. In a study done by LPC, the Hispanic student population was 9% in 2010. In the fall of 2018, that number grew to 31%.
The rise of Hispanic students meant that the college needed to diversify its staff to fit a more diverse group of students. A sentiment that was echoed by Gonzales and Puente Club members, is that while LPC has done a better job making the staff more diverse, there is still room for improvement.
“No, there is not enough diversity. It is important for students of color to have a diverse faculty so that they can see other people doing professional work that they strive to do. But it is also important for ahite students to have professors of color so we can understand and break down the stereotypes about what kind of people are capable of having certain amounts of intelligence or certain kinds of knowledge,” said Gonzales.
Gonzales also believes that Hispanic Heritage Month shouldn’t be the only time that Hispanic history should be learned.
“I love the heritage months, but they’re also kind of annoying because it just feels like as Latinx people, we have to put all this energy into celebrating our heritage for a month, then it’s forgotten until the next year,” said Gonzales.
Though there is room for improvement on the subject of diversity at LPC, the recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month is a big step forward in recognizing diversity.
“It is important to recognize Hispanic Heritage Month because it is important for people like me and others like me to be proud of our culture and for other students at LPC to recognize the struggles people like me have had to go through in this country,” said Alejandra Quezada, a former Puente Club President.
The events being presented this month allow students to learn more about Hispanic culture through web seminars, workshops and presentations about Hispanic culture. The Puente Club is also participating in helping the local Tri-Valley community by distributing masks that they created.
In addition to making masks, the Puente Club is also encouraging students to vote by helping them become registered voters. In 2016, only 48% of eligible college voters voted according to the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education. Puente Club is encouraging more college students to register to vote for this upcoming election, regardless of political leanings.
LPC and Puente Club have also been outspoken about giving more information about theDeferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. LPC has uploaded information and resources for DACA students on their website. Puente Club has been a safe space for DACA students to come and express their feelings about being Dreamers at LPC.
“We do our best to help Dreamers by making them feel welcome and by sending them to LPC representatives that specialize in helping DACA students through the legal process,” said Juliann Moreno, a member of Puente Club.
Last year, California Community Colleges estimated that 50,000 to 70,000 students are undocumeted and about half are protected under the DACA program. LPC is currently a sanctuary campus where undocumented students are welcome to take classes regardless of their legal status in the country.
“I would rate the college’s response to DACA students very high. There is a lot of misinformation that we have to counter. There is a lot going on with the Trump Administration and all the fear mongering they are producing. UndocuAlly and LPC have done a really good job of updating the LPC webpage to keep the information updated so there is no confusion,” said Gonzales.
Puente Club is encouraging all students of every background to join Hispanic students in celebrating Hispanic Heritage month by going to the many festivities that are being hosted as well as spreading awareness for the month via social media.
Professors are also encouraged to make announcements through Canvas promoting the month and encouraging students to attend the virtual events that are being hosted.
Hispanic Heritage Month is a time where many Hispanic Americans can be celebrated in this country. For non-hispanic students and faculty, learning more about this month is important in bridging the gap between Hispanic Americans and other racial groups in this country.
“Just be willing to learn about different cultures and keep an open mind. Be willing to have a conversation about it with your Latinx or Hispanic friends on the importance of this month,” said Quezada.
For more information on Hispanic Heritage Month, visit the Las Positas Website for a list of events and virtual workshops.
Nathan Canilao is the editor-in-chief of The Express. Follow him @nathancanilao.