Claflin University officially began its celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month with a ceremony, Mariachi band performance and fiesta midday Thursday.
In welcoming faculty, staff, students and visitors to the kickoff event on Panther Plaza, Dr. Jorge Salvo, an associate professor of Spanish at the University, said the influences of Hispanic culture are all around us.
“We look at the names and places from around South Carolina, for example – Saluda, the Edisto,” he said. “One hundred years before the Mayflower, the Spanish left their legacy.
“We tend to forget that heritage. It stays, and we don’t recognize its origin. That’s what we want to promote.”
Students Maxx Jackson and Chloe Gonzalez offered a greeting in English and Spanish, respectively, and Spanish minor Amber Terry presented the occasion. Student Fernando Ramirez performed a song.
“It is of the utmost importance to be aware of the cultures that surround us,” Jackson said. “Let’s celebrate the Hispanic heritage that’s in the United States, South Carolina and at Claflin.”
The opening celebration closed with a reading of the National Hispanic Heritage Month Proclamation by President Barack Obama, delivered in English and in Spanish by Dr. Jason Youngkeit and Dr. Leon Chang Shik, respectively.
National Hispanic Heritage Month – which has its roots in 1968 – is observed annually September 15 through October 15 to recognize the contributions made by Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States, and to celebrate the group’s heritage and culture. It begins each year on the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile and Belize also celebrate their independence days during this period, and Columbus Day is October 12.
Claflin University extended its kickoff Thursday with the Mariachi Los Cabos Band performing as Claflinites enjoyed a “Fiesta in Panther Town” featuring Mexican cuisine in the University’s dining center.
National Hispanic Heritage Month events will continue through Oct. 11 with a film series in the Grace Thomas Kennedy Auditorium. The film “Stand and Deliver” will be shown at 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, followed by “Cuba: The Next Revolution” at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7, and “Haiti and The Dominican Republic: An Island Divided” at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11.
Dr. Juan Hernandez, Dr. Jorge Salvo, Dr. Leon Chang Shik and Dr. Donald Pace will be on hand for a discussion and Q&A session of the film screenings on Monday and Friday. Friday’s screening will also feature Hispanic cuisine.
The theme for this year’s National Hispanic Heritage Month observance is “Hispanics: Serving and Leading Our Nation with Pride and Honor.” For more information, visit www.hispanicheritagemonth.org.