Celebrating Hispanic Heritage month with BC DivCo
JOSUE COY DICK
Celebrating Hispanic Heritage month is a complex and difficult task, in part because it attempts to celebrate the heritage of people who have come to the United States from over twenty different countries on two and a half continents in one month.
To put that into perspective, it would be like celebrating all of European Heritage in one month. It’s quite a challenge.
Traditionally, the term “Hispanic” refers to the people and cultures of the world’s 21 primarily Spanish speaking countries, including Mexico, most of Central and South America and Spain.
To add to the confusion, many people who could fall into the “Hispanic” category prefer to identify as Latin American, or Latinx, a term that includes all people and cultures of Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.
From a Latinx perspective, Hispanic Heritage should really celebrate the people from 33 countries in the region, who, according to the World Bank, speak over 500 languages and claim a broad variety of ethnic identities, including 25% who identify as Afro-Latinx, 8% as Indigenous, and 25% as white.
According to Bethel College junior Alejandra Martinez, junior from Newton, it is important to affirm the breadth and depth of the diversity covered by the “Hispanic” and “Latinx” umbrellas.
“[W]hen people think of Hispanic or Latinx, they often don’t do a good job of being inclusive and speaking for the people they are trying to categorize, including Indigenous people and Afro-Latinx people, who are often overlooked,” Martinez said.
On campus, the Bethel College Diversity Council (DivCo), organizes many activities throughout the year that celebrate different cultures, including Hispanic Heritage Month.
“The most important thing we try to do is host different types of events and educate people on the different cultures... that [don’t] usually get represented in any major fashion on campus,” Sam Wilson, senior on the Diversity Council, said.
This year, DivCo has planned a variety of activities to bring attention to a few unique and fun aspects of different Hispanic cultures, including a bonfire that offers a taste of the varied musical styles shared throughout the Spanish-speaking world and a Fiesta, which celebrates primarily Mexican and Mexican American traditions.
DivCo is an evolving and adaptive organization, and Wilson hopes DivCo can continue to incorporate new ways to make Bethel more inclusive, including moving beyond what some might perceive as “token” cultural events to help Bethel become a more interculturally competent community.
“For trying to move forward, cultural competence is the first [step]...because I know this is a very white space, and it’s been that way for a very long time,” Wilson said.
“Since Bethel has become more diverse in recent years, there needs to be a couple steps taken on learning how we interact with [diverse] people,” Wilson said.
While celebrating Hispanic Heritage month is a good start, Wilson hopes that DivCo can continue to assist the college in growing into its diversity at ever deeper levels, so that Bethel can become a better space for everyone on campus.