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ASU Art Museum holds 3rd annual Mexican Independence Day celebration

September 16, 2021

Event spotlights culture through dance, food, crafts, games and music

The ASU Art Museum celebrated its third annual Mexican Independence Day on Wednesday night by recognizing the culture and contributions of the Mexican and Mexican American communities in Arizona. 

The event, held outdoors, included music played by DJ CRVNT3S, bachata and salsa lessons taught by Dance FX, game tables set up with loteria, Salvadorian-Mexican food plated up by ZPotes Food Truck, and various do-it-yourself activities such as making homemade paper piñatas, sombreros, Mexican flags and paper Huichol weavings brought by Phoenix guest artist Gloria Martinez-Granados. 

Martinez-Granados explained that she decided to spotlight this variation of the traditional Huichol looms because it gives her a sense of identity as a Mexican American woman and artist. Her hope was to help bring awareness to this Indigenous culture and have the community members attending the event actively experience the culture behind Huichol, a group that mainly lives in the Sierra Madre Occidental in western Mexico.

Overhead shot of people working at a table with paper weavings

Phoenix guest artist Gloria Martinez-Granados spotlighted Indigenous Huichol weavings at the event Wednesday. “I want them to connect with the culture. Beyond just the Huichol culture, weaving is a practice that is ancient,” she said.

“I want them to connect with the culture. Beyond just the Huichol culture, weaving is a practice that is ancient,” said Martinez-Granados, who was brought to the event through the CALA Alliance (Celebración Artística de las Américas). “I think it’s really important to celebrate cultures because we live in such a diverse nation and it’s important to have a sense of belonging. Having events like this helps build community and allows people to come and experience culture actively.”

Last year, the Mexican Independence Day event was held online. Andrea Feller, the curator of education at the ASU Art Museum, expressed how happy the museum is to be able to continue its tradition of hosting the celebration in-person while following ASU’s guidelines of having a socially distanced program during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“​​Our Mexican Independence Day event allows us to celebrate our long commitment of exhibiting art by Hispanic artists and connect with our local and campus community,” Feller said. “It’s an honor to kick off Hispanic Heritage month with our program.”

ASU students and surrounding community members from the Tempe and Phoenix areas enjoyed the various activities, music and the annual Grito, which was performed this year by Deputy Consul Armando Manuel Esparza Miranda from the Consulate General of Mexico in Phoenix. 

El Grito, or “the yell” (also called el Grito de Dolores), is a centuries-old tradition that began Sept. 15, 1810, just before midnight when Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Roman Catholic priest from the small town of Dolores, Mexico, cried out against colonial rule. He rang the church bells in the town and cried out for the native Mexican people to take back their land from their Spanish oppressors, ending his speech with the infamous cry: “Viva Mexico!” or “Long live Mexico!” His actions eventually rallied thousands of people to fight for Mexican independence. 

Each year it is performed as a call-and-response the evening before Mexican Independence Day (which is Sept. 16). One person calls out the names of Mexican leaders and the crowd replies “Viva!” each time.

“The Grito is the start of our history as an independent country, but it’s also a gathering when we make community and we celebrate our roots,” said Maria del Rocio Rodriguez Echeverria, the consul for cultural and community efforts in the Consulate General of Mexico. “It’s a big source of pride to see families coming together and celebrate our independence.”

Children and adults alike stood in the courtyard of the ASU Art Museum on Wednesday yelling “Viva!” in reply to the deputy’s Grito.

“This is an important day to be proud of the culture and history of the Southwest United States, and part of that culture and history comes from Mexico,” said Miki Garcia, the director of the ASU Art Museum. 

ASU psychology students Andres Cervantes and Paloma Amaya joined the festivities by participating in the Grito and art activities. As Phoenix natives of Mexican descent, Cervantes and Amaya expressed their gratitude for the ASU event as it brings awareness of Mexican culture in a respectful way.

“It’s really cool that we get this representation at ASU even with its diverse population so we feel like we’re a part of it,” Cervantes said.

In addition to the celebration and festivities, the ASU Art Museum recently opened the new “Undoing Time: Art and Histories of Incarceration” exhibition, which features artwork from a diverse selection of Latino artists, among others. The museum consistently features work from artists of Latin descent throughout each year and strives to make sure its exhibits celebrate different cultures. 

“Every month is Hispanic Heritage Month at ASU Art Museum,” said Julio Cesar Morales, the senior curator of the ASU Art Museum. “It’s arte para todos, art for everyone.” 

To continue celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, find more ASU events scheduled throughout September until Oct. 15. 

Top photo: Geography graduate student Norma Lopez-Castaneda spins as everyone learns how to bachata during the Mexican Independence Day celebration hosted by the ASU Art Museum on the Tempe campus Sept. 15. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU News

Constance-Sophie Almendares

Student reporter , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

Critical Languages Institute celebrates 30 years of summer language and cultural instruction

September 16, 2021

This summer, the Critical Languages Institute held its 30th year of language classes.

Hosted by Arizona State University’s Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies, the institute provides affordable, college-level language courses in languages from East Europe and Eurasia. In 1991, the Critical Languages Institute began with a single Macedonian language class, and soon added Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian and other languages. Over the next 30 years, the institute grew into a large and vibrant community of language learners. Map showing where different ASU institute alumni are from To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Critical Languages Institute and its alumni achievements, ASU alumnus Nicholas Gayer built an interactive ArcGIS storymaps website. One map displays all of the institute’s study abroad locations, past and present, alongside alumni photographs and stories for each location. Another map follows students in their careers after leaving the institute. Download Full Image

Each of the summer courses offered by the institute are open not only to students from ASU and elsewhere, but also to non-students who are interested in the region. In 2020, students from countries as far-flung as the U.K., the Netherlands and India took classes in 13 languages: Albanian, Armenian, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Hebrew, Indonesian, Kazakh, Macedonian, Persian, Polish, Russian, Turkish, Ukrainian and Uzbek. The classes provide the equivalent of a year’s worth of university language instruction condensed into one summer.

To celebrate the anniversary and alumni achievements, Nicholas Gayer, who graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in urban planning in 2019 and a master’s degree in geographic information systems in 2020, built an interactive ArcGIS storymaps website.

The website features interactive maps that illustrate the experience and impact of the institute. One map displays all of the institute’s study abroad locations, past and present, alongside interactive alumni photographs and stories for each location. Another map follows students in their careers after leaving the institute.

Today, alumni of the institute work around the world, leveraging their language and study abroad experiences. Many former students have gone on to win prestigious fellowships and scholarships such as the Fulbright Fellowship or the Charles B. Rangel International Fellowship. Some have returned to Phoenix, including the Melikian Center’s current director, Keith Brown, who is an alumnus of the institute and a professor at ASU’s School of Politics and Global Studies.

For Evan Tieslink, who took Uzbek at the institute in 2010 and 2013, the institute was a formative academic and professional experience. 

“The Critical Languages Institute did a great thing in choosing teachers that felt more like peers or friends than a traditional professor,” Tieslink said. 

“While working in Washington, D.C., my data team was almost entirely composed of people from outside the U.S. (Sudan, Gambia, Vietnam, Wales, India and Ethiopia, among others), and it was never a struggle for me to build friendships and understanding with them. Learning difficult languages, the institute rewired my brain a bit and made me more comfortable and accepting of people with different languages, religions, cultures and ways of thinking than myself,” he said. “No matter what you end up doing after your university experience, this is one of the most important skills you can have throughout your professional career.”

Tyler Gobble, who graduated from Arizona State University and Barrett, The Honors College, with a degree in aerospace engineering in 2017, took Turkish with the Critical Languages Institute in 2018 and used the experience to pivot to an international relations master’s program. He graduated from Georgetown University with a master’s degree in foreign service in 2021. 

The Critical Languages Institute prepared me because it taught not just language but also culture, about people and what matters to them. It facilitated my transition to graduate school,” Gobble said. “I was nervous because I majored in aerospace engineering, because of my undergrad experience, and I was in a room with colleagues with work experience in international relations already, some of whom even worked for the foreign service. The institute made me feel more ready.”

In line with ASU’s institutional commitment to being accessible to the surrounding community, the institute does not charge tuition but rather an administrative flat fee of $1,500 for its Tempe-based programs. It also offers a limited number of first-come, first-served need-based scholarships for low-income and Pell-eligible applicants.

“It’s important to us that language study is accessible to all students, especially those who could not envision themselves taking a language like Ukrainian or Kazakh, let alone study abroad," said Irina Levin, director of the institute. "Our goal is to make language learning, especially for less popular languages, something that students of all backgrounds see as open to them. The Critical Languages Institute is one of the only places in the U.S. that teaches some of our languages for college credit, making us an essential resource for students and scholars of Eurasia and Central Asia in particular.” 

Looking forward to 2022, the Critical Languages Institute is adding a 14th language: Tatar.

Written by Kristen Ho, program coordinator, the Melikian Center