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ASU hosts multiple events for Hispanic Heritage Month

Celebrations a time to bring people together to honor varying cultures

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September 12, 2023

For Stella Rouse, Hispanic Heritage Month isn’t just about celebrating a culture. It’s about understanding similarities rather than differences and turning them to our collective advantage.

“Because we are so heterogeneous in where we come from, oftentimes people within the Latino community focus on those differences rather than how similar we really are,” said Stella Rouse, director of the Hispanic Research Center and professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies. “This month is an opportunity to come together and discuss our commonalities across the beauty of varying cultures.

"We already spend a lot of time in society focusing on how groups are different. ... How we can learn from each other’s cultures to better understand ourselves as human beings is important.”

Woman with red hair smiling

Stella Rouse, director of ASU's Hispanic Research Center

Every year, Arizona State University observes Hispanic Heritage Month, which kicks off Sept. 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of Chicano, Latino and Hispanic individuals whose ancestors came from Mexico, Spain, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

Several ASU colleges, departments and academic units across the university are planning a variety of events in recognition of the contributions of the Hispanic and Latino communities.

The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts will kick off the month with two days of of festivities that celebrate Mexican Independence Day, beginning with an event that will feature art, workshops, lotería games, face painting, salsa lessons, music and food from Salsa Bites from 5 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 15 at the ASU Art Museum. On Sept. 16, there will be a concert that features the ASU Symphony Orchestra plus two mariachi groups at 5 p.m. at ASU Gammage. 

Another signature event for 2023 is “The College Tour en Español,” which takes place from 1 to 5 p.m. on Oct. 1 at ASU’s West campus. The event will feature music, dance, student club and vendor information, food trucks and a 30-minute screening of a new film about the real-life experiences of 10 Hispanic/Latino ASU students and recent alumni that will stream on Amazon Prime this year.

More than 800 Hispanic/Latino high school students and family members, counselors, community members and other supporters who are interested in learning more about applying for and attending ASU are expected to attend.

“Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to ramp up the recognition and celebration of all that our Latino students, families, faculty and staff contribute to the fabric of ASU,” said Vanessa Ruiz, deputy vice president of Educational Outreach and Student Services. “It’s important to note, however, that at ASU, we support and highlight their contributions year-round. We are proud that the university works hard every day to provide opportunities for success, access and excellence to all of the communities we serve.” 

Starting in 1968, the United States began observing Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson. Twenty years later, it was expanded by President Ronald Reagan to cover a 30-day period. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanic/Latino people make up about 18% of the United States population, which accounts for nearly 60 million individuals. At ASU, those numbers are equally significant.  

One in four ASU students identifies as Hispanic/Latino, totaling more than 31,000 students. Those growing numbers follow a year where ASU was recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, earned a second Seal of Excelencia by Excelencia in Education and joined the Presidents for Latino Student Success.

“We take pride in these national recognitions. They draw attention to the community of Latina/o students and scholars at ASU who contribute so significantly to the success of our university,” said Nancy Gonzales, executive vice president and university provost. “This monthlong celebration provides us the opportunity to acknowledge and honor the impact Hispanic students, faculty and staff are making through their educational pursuits and research excellence.”

This year has special significance for the Hispanic Research Center, which empowers Latino and Hispanic individuals and communities by generating and disseminating knowledge of public value, and creating programming and partnerships that support the success of a multicultural society.

Rouse said Hispanic Heritage Month is a great way for the center to reintroduce itself to the ASU community. They’ll host an open house from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sept. 21 in their offices at the Interdisciplinary A building. She said the open house will include an art exhibition, book fair, raffles, and paletas (Spanish popsicles) and other light refreshments.

“The center was formed in 1985 and has historically been known for its Chicano artwork and bilingual press, which has provided a lot of opportunities for Hispanics and Latinos to get published and exhibit their artistic skills,” said Rouse, who was hired from the University of Maryland in July. “Our goal for the center is to continue to honor the rich art and literature, but to reach out to any entity on campus that does work on issues impacting the Hispanic population to expand the center’s reach and become a community hub for Hispanic interests.”

Rouse said that in her first few months at ASU, the center has collaborated with the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Center for Latina/os and American Politics Research, within the School of Politics and Global Studies, where Rouse is also a professor.

With ASU’s 2022 designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institute, Rouse can – and has – committed to conducting research on behalf of the center.

“The designation opens up a bunch of opportunities for grants and funding by the U.S. government, and particularly the Department of Education,” Rouse said. “There are also student opportunities for research and education.”

Currently, the Hispanic Research Center is conducting research thanks to one grant and a sponsored study.

The first allocation was a $10,000 seed grant from the Institute for Humanities Research to help the center digitize its extensive collection of Latino art. The second is a sponsored project with funding from Latinos Por La Causa for a Latino economic mobility study. This project is led by the Seidman Research Institute in the W. P. Carey School of Business, in collaboration with the Hispanic Research Center and the School of Transborder Studies

Anita Huizar-Hernández, the associate director of the Hispanic Research Center, was born and raised in Tempe. She said this month should be an important time of reflection for all people who live in the Copper State.

“Arizona has a long and complex history when it comes to the Hispanic community,” said Huizar-Hernández, who is also an associate professor in the School of International Letters and Cultures. “Something we can all agree on is that Arizona would not be the place it is today without the Latinos who have called it home for centuries.”

Signature Hispanic and Latino events

Mexican Independence Day
5–8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 15
ASU Art Museum, Tempe campus

¡Viva México! (ASU Symphony Orchestra and ASU Mariachi)
5–7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16
ASU Gammage, Tempe campus

Writers in Conversation featuring Norma Cantú and Denice Frohman
6:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 21
Alumni Lounge, Memorial Union, Tempe campus 

Hispanic Research Center Open House
2–5 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 21
Interdisciplinary A, second floor, Tempe campus

Sun Devil Football Hispanic Heritage Night
Time TBA, Saturday, Sept. 23
Mountain America Stadium, Tempe campus

Movies on the Lawn: "Encanto"
6:30–9:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 30
Fletcher Lawn, West campus

The College Tour en Español
1 to 5 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 1
La Sala Ballroom, West campus

Top illustration by Alex Davis/ASU

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