Popel Shaw Center Celebrates LatinX Heritage

Allan Farfan Canales ’23, Contributing Writer

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The Popel Shaw Center for Race and Ethnicity (PSC) will host events to honor LatinX Heritage month, a month-long celebration of LatinX and Hispanic-American’s contributions to history and culture in the United States.

Sept. 15 marked the start of LatinX heritage month, and the PSC screened the 2017 documentary Chavela on Sept. 16 which also marks Mexican Independence Day. Chavela centers around Mexican ranchera singer Chavela Vargas and his impact on Latin American popular music.

Officially kicking off the festivities is the 2019 LatinX Gala which will be hosted on Sept. 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the Social Hall. “For the last few years we’ve had a Latinx heritage lunch,” said Vincent Stephens, director of the PSC. This year the PSC decided to host a gala because it would “open [the event] up to more people—it’s an opportunity for folks to bring their families if they wanted to, sort of in keeping with the la familia ethos,” he said.  The gala will feature a keynote speech from alum Valeria Carranza ’09, as well as varied performances, dancing, a raffle, and a catered buffet.

Stephens highlighted the importance of representing various LatinX identities during the month’s festivities. “I think at Dickinson a large portion of our Latinx students are students of Mexican descent often from the West Coast,” Stephens said,  “But we have students from all over, who are Puerto Rican, Guatemalan, Dominican—just a really wide variety. So the goal is to represent the diversity of the Latin diaspora here.”

LatinX students make up eight percent of the total Dickinson population as the “largest historical underrepresented group,” according to Stephens. On-campus organizations like the Latin-American & Caribbean Club, Latina Discussion Group, and multicultural fraternity Sigma Lambda Beta are dedicated to serving the needs of these students.  

The PSC is co-sponsoring the month’s events with departments such as the Latin-American, Latino & Caribbean Studies Department (LALC), Spanish & Portuguese Departments, and the Center for Global Study & Engagement (CGSE) in order to “make sure students feel supported, seen, recognized, engaged.  So we’re really presenting a unified picture of the different ways people can engage with the month,” said Stephens.

In organizing and developing activities for Latinx Heritage Month, “[The co-sponsors] learn each year from events and then come up with ideas for the next academic year,” said Carolina Castellanos, chair of the Latin-American, Latino & Caribbean Studies Department.  “We always listen to students and faculty feedback and suggestions, ask for volunteers, and Vincent Stephens does a great job working with students in the events,” she said.

According to Stephens, there is no central committee to organize the month’s events which means different offices and departments are delegated different responsibilities. “We typically do a lot of planning for the school year during the summer when students are here,” Stephens said. Once the basic events are set up, students can get involved either by staffing them or helping to promote them.

In addition to the LatinX gala, the PSC will host lectures related to topics such as the representation of queer people of color in public art, Mexican holiday traditions, and a “one man show” by Javier Avila about his experience as male-identifying American-Latino. More information about these events can be found on the PSC website.