UK celebrates Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month


Courtney Suber, Reporter

Hispanic Heritage Month at the University of Kentucky kicked off on its nationally recognized date, Sept.15.

Sponsored by the Martin Luther King Center, the month included several festivities to celebrate Latinx culture, history and heritage.

“A lot of students and a lot of Lexingtonians aren’t aware of just how much Hispanic culture is here,” Alan Brown, a professor in UK’s Hispanic Studies department, said. “There’s a lot of stereotypes … about what Hispanic culture is and is not.”

While UK has advertised Hispanic Heritage Month to students and staff with a multitude of events, the month has much deeper history than the fun events which have been held by the university and other institutions.

Hispanic Heritage Month was first observed in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week and was later expanded to encompass an entire month. It was enacted into law on Aug. 17, 1988.

The festival beginning on Sept. 15 is significant because it marks the independence of several Latin American nations, including Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Día de la Raza also falls within this period. Día de la Raza is the alternative to Columbus Day on Oct. 10 and celebrates the mixed cultures within Latin America. Alongside the celebrations held for Día de la Raza are those celebrating independence of countries such as Mexico and Chile.

Students could get involved with Hispanic culture in many different ways, including through cooking classes and dance lessons. Heather Campbell-Speltz, an assistant professor in UK’s Hispanic Studies department, helped organize a salsa lesson and dance night at the Cornerstone Building.

“We had a good turnout. We had students from Hispanic Studies, both undergraduate and graduate, and faculty members,” she said.

Three of the events which UK planned to celebrate the month include Malinche’s Refusal, Melodias de Latinoamerica and the Indigenious People’s Day celebration.

Malinche’s Refusal was a seminar held on Oct. 14 in the William T. Young Library. Gabriel Spears-Rico, an anthropologist and assistant professor in Chicano Latino Studies and American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota, delivered the seminar.

The seminar discussed Malinche, an interpreter to the Spanish during their conquest of Mexico. It also delved into the ideas and concepts held surrounding Hispanic people in the field of anthropology.

“I thought UK did a great job of offering a lot of different activities in different formats to really highlight different aspects of Hispanic culture in the local community,” Campbell-Speltz said. “There was a great offering of Latinx culture in Kentucky.”

Melodias de Lationamerica, directly translating to Melodies of Latin America, was a song festival held in the Singletary Center for the Arts on Oct. 14. The festival was hosted by the University of Kentucky School of Music and presented a program of songs which paid tribute to Hispanic Heritage Month as well as cultural music through the decades.

The beginning of the program featured Siete Canciones Populares Espanolas, which is a collection of songs from Manuel de Falla. De Falla was a Spanish composer who is often regarded as one of the best in Spanish history. The collection’s direct translation is “Seven Spanish Folksongs,” and the songs were filtered and rearranged by de Falla.

Alicia Helm McCovey sang the collection of songs, alongside Daniel Monroy on guitar. The performance was entirely acoustic, with the two being left to the devices of voice and guitar.

The other songs which were presented within the first half of the program featured the pianist Martin Neron. Each song had a different origin; some were Venezuelan, some Brazilian, some Argentinian and some Incan.

Each performer at the festival wore bright and expressive clothing, which fit the characteristics and emotion of each song presented. The final song prior to intermission featured Neron again and created a performance that drew in listeners.

Aaron Bowling, the technical production manager at UK’s Opera Theatre, said he was “all about” the School of Music being involved in Hispanic Heritage Month.

“I think it was a wonderful move,” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to get the students and faculty involved in cultural events.”

Campbell-Speltz said she was better able to notice the impact of the month around campus due to the multiple organizations involved in it.

“It was more noticeable this year than perhaps it has been in previous years,” she said. “I was seeing a lot more advertisement around the activities being offered.”

Though Brown is happy with the outreach, he said UK can still do more to promote Hispanic culture on campus. He specifically cited a lack of speakers for events and classes focused on Latinx heritage.

“We struggle to get our Spanish for Heritage Learners (classes) fulfilled,” Brown said.

However, Brown is still looking toward the future.

“There’s a lot more potential,” he said. “Lexington compared to 15-20 years ago has a pretty significant Latinx population.”

UK’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations will end Nov. 1 with a celebration of Indigenious People’s Day.