Speaker series celebrates Hispanic Heritage month

Editor’s note: this version of the story corrects Daniel Abreu’s name and flag origins. 

Hispanic Cultural Heritage does not fit into one box.

This month MCCC’S Culture and Current Affairs Speakers Series is exploring the diversity and misconceptions involved in hispanic culture. 

A lineup of events and discussions will offer support for the Hispanic community and awareness of Hispanic Heritage.

“We should be asking the questions and trying to hear the stories and see the different perspectives, because it is a complicated racial heritage,” professor of history, Edmund La Clair said.

At MCCC, three percent of students are Hispanic.

“I consider myself to be Hispanic,” MCCC student Juanluis

Flags of hispanic countries stuck in the ground outside the A building for Hispanic Heritage Month
Flags from Hispanic Nations and places line the sidewalk outside the A building to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month. (photo by Elisabeth Brockman)

Rodriguez said. “I celebrate the fact that not only am I Puerto Rican, but also Bolivian and have ancestry from the Incas, which is awesome.”

Different people have different understandings of what Hispanic heritage means. 

MCCC President Kojo Quartey defined a person of Hispanic Heritage as someone whose ancestors come from Spain and the Iberian Peninsula. 

La Clair said even basing the definition on ancestry it is too simplified. Racial identity can be found in the culture and geographic location of where a person was raised.

“You’ll see Hispanic Heritage gets celebrated in the Americas and Spain,” La Clair said.”Now Mexico celebrates it as a day of their indigenous heritage and their Spanish heritage and takes pride in the fact that they are both Native Americans and Spanish who intermingled.”  

Native American Month is celebrated in October so the overlap is appropriate, Quartey said. 

Hispanic Heritage month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15. 

It is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 instead of within a singular month because of significant historical events. 

“Initially the celebration was a 30 day Hispanic holiday called the Day of the Race that started on September 15,” La Clair. “Day of the Race was a celebration of racial heritage of the Iberian Peninsula.” 

September 15 is also significant because it marked the end of the Latin American wars of independence in the 1830’s for Latin American countries such as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, La Clair said.

In the United States, Hispanic Heritage Month was first observed by former president Lyndon Johnson in 1968.

“We are also commemorating the growth of our nation’s culture, vastly broadened and enriched by its Hispanic citizens,” former Michigan Representative Dale Kildee said after the bill was signed into law.

Juanluis Rodriguez and his brother Victor Rodriguez said they have faced racism because people automatically categorize them as Mexican or Spanish speakers.

 “I wish people would not categorize everyone who is Hispanic or Latino as all Mexicans because Hispanic heritage is very diverse, ” Victor said. “When I stated I was Puerto Rican and Bolivian, they responded by stating that they are all the same.” 

The Culture and Current Affairs Speakers Series strives to differentiate these terms and emphasize the importance of allowing individuals to express their cultural and ancestral heritage. 

“When it comes to definitions of people and multicultural cultural backgrounds, only you can define for yourself who you are, so don’t let anybody else define that for you,” Quartey said. 

 Quartey coordinates the series with the goal of facilitating discussion on the latest topics and promoting inclusion for other cultures.

“The point is this small place is catching-up with the rest of the world, ” MCCC President Kojo Quartey said. “It is something that needs to be done in this community.”


Hispanic Country Flags (Ongoing)

Flags of Hispanic Nations and places line the sidewalk outside the A building including the flags of Puerto Rican and Spain. The flags were donated by MCCC adjunct professor Daniel Abreu.  

President Quartey said, they are a symbol of the many countries where people of Hispanic heritage find their roots. 

Hispanic Flags next to roses.
The Flags are a reminder of all the different places where people of Hispanic heritage have roots. (Photo by Elisabeth Brockman)

The Hands that Feed Us (Past Event) 

Rudy Flores, chairperson of Southeastern Michigan Migrant Resource Council, held the discussion Oct 7.

“The speech covered immigrants in the agricultural industry who are working our farms, ” Quartey said. “The immigrants here who are working at the nurseries fields and other places where we get our food.” 

Minorities, Financial Security, and Stability (Past Event) 

Financial Advisor David Abalos presented  this virtual event on Oct 13. 

“This speech talked about financial stability, investments and how minorities can invest,” Quartey said. “The best investment, and I don’t mean in terms of returns but the best investment, is something you can leave for your kids like a house.” Food truck menu

Cilantro Mexican food trailer to visit campus (Upcoming) 

A Mexican food trailer will be on campus Tuesday, October 19th from 11:30-1:00 p.m. in the La-Z-Boy Center parking lot area.  

MCCC students and staff get a 10% discount and the MCCC Employee Engagement Committee will offer free pop and water.  

Growing up Puerto Rican (Upcoming) 

This speech will be Thursday, Oct. 21 at 5:30pm 

Presented by Nancy Wain, Executive Director of the Monroe Housing Commission. 

The virtual meeting can be joined using this Zoom link.  

“Nancy will talk about her experience being a Puerto Rican American” said Quarty “People from Puerto Rico are Hispanic but because it is a US territory Puerto Ricans are Americans.”

For more information about the Culture and Current Affairs speaker series visit the MCCC website and the events page.