Bearcats Celebrate: Latinx Heritage Month

Written by Erin Michel, Graduate Assistant for the Graduate School

A woman with brown hair smiles.

Dr. Brianna Leavitt-Alcantra, LACLS Chair/Latinx History Month programming coordinator

September 15 marked the beginning of Latinx Heritage month, a period of nationwide observance which runs through October 15. This year, UC will host a wide variety of events, both thought provoking and fun, for all UC community members to celebrate Latinx culture and heritage. Offerings include salsa dancing, cooking classes, film screenings, fútbol, roundtable discussions, and more. Dr. Brianna Leavitt-Alcantra, Associate History Professor and Director of Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino/a/x Studies (LACLS) and coordinator of UC’s Latinx History month programming , offers some insight into the events as well as the broader significance of celebration.

“The purpose of the programming is twofold,” she tells me. “One is for our Latinx student population, so they feel visible on campus and have an opportunity to connect with one another and form community. The other side is an opportunity for the entire UC community to explore and understand Latinx history and culture […] in fun kinds of ways.” Dr. Leavitt-Alcantra explains that she has observed a trend of Latinx students feeling invisible on campus, due to student body demographics being predominantly White and Black; although UC’s Latinx population is certainly growing, it still remains a minority at around 4% of the general student body and 4% of the graduate student body. Another reason for this lack of visibility, Dr. Leavitt-Alcantra explains, is the broader public’s lack of recognition regarding the large amount racial and sub-ethnic diversity within the Latinx community itself, which is part of the reason for the shift in some circles towards using the term “Latinx” in favor of “Hispanic.” “Hispanic is a term that emphasized Spanish culture and history and obviously that’s present, but the shift to Latino is an effort to be more inclusive in terms of Brazilian, for example, or Haitian or Caribbean [individuals],” she explains. “[It represents] trying to move beyond just thinking in terms of Spanish past, but also indigenous and African and other sort of cultures that are very much part of Latinx culture.” She adds that “Latinx” instead of “Latino” or “Latina” is a more gender-neutral descriptor preferred by some: “The term, I think, is still in flux […]," she explains, “but the impulse is to be as inclusive as possible.”  

The full calendar of events can be seen below, and all offerings are open to all UC students as well as non-UC community members. Organizing the programming was a team effort, Dr. Leavitt-Alcantra tells me, and reflects the effort of many on campus including the LACLS program, Latino Faculty Association, Latinx en Acción (a student organization), Ethnic Programs and Services, and the Faculty Enrichment Center, as well as a handful other faculty members of departments which work interdisciplinarily with LACLS. Dr. Alcantra-Leavitt believes that two events in particular will be of great interest to graduate students. Firstly, graduate students are encouraged to attend a film screening of Oklahoma Mon Amour on September 21, which will be followed by a discussion with the filmmaker (and UC alumnus!) herself, Professor Carolina Rueda. According to Chicago Movie Magazine, Oklahoma Mon Amour “portrays a ruptured family and the quest for its reunion, the journey of two brothers, the challenges faced by multicultural youth needing to find their true identity and to unveil buried secrets, all of this tinted by the puzzling closeness between Mexico and the U.S.” The movie’s trailer can be viewed at this link

Dr. Leavitt-Alcantra also encourages students to attend the Latinx Community and Public Health Roundtable and Panel Discussion held on October 5 from 3:30-4:30 in A&S 53 or via Zoom (visit the CampusLink event page to RSVP and for Zoom details). The event will feature a broad range of individuals working in both physical and mental health, including individuals from UC’s Medical School as well as partners from various community agencies. Subject matter discussed will include health disparities amongst racial and ethnic communities as well as unique challenges, considerations, and best practices in working with Latinx clients. “I feel like there’s such an opening right now, following COVID, to think about public health and to continue thinking about public health [moving forward], so I’m really excited for that conversation,” adds Dr. Leavitt-Alcantra. 

As Dr. Leavitt-Alcantra points out, this month’s observance is about making our Latinx community members feel seen, heard, and respected through learning and celebrating Latinx history and culture. Diversity makes us stronger and is worth celebrating year-round. This month, we celebrate our Latinx community members; as Antonio Tijero, CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, says, “You are not lucky to be here. The world needs your perspective. They are lucky to have you.”  

*For a full list of events, view the graphic below or visit this link

Latinx Heritage Month calendar of events