Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with ‘In the Heights’


Anna Drumm

Students gathered in the Habitat on Friday, Oct. 8, to watch “In the Heights.” The film screening was part of OU’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations.

The Oakland University Office for Student Involvement (OSI) and Center for Multicultural Initiatives (CMI) co-sponsored a screening of the film “In the Heights” on Friday, Oct. 8, in the Oakland Center’s Habitat as part of OU’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM). Preceding the film’s screening, students were able to partake in a non-alcoholic “Hispanic Happy Half Hour.” Following this introductory event, students settled into the Habitat’s seating, which was at near full capacity. 

Directed by John M. Chu and based on the stage musical of identical name composed by Quiara Alegria Hudes and Lin Manuel Miranda, “In the Heights” is a musical drama film. It is centered on the pursuit of a better life by residents of the Washington Heights neighborhood in the Upper Manhattan area of New York City. The film spotlights Hispanic culture and acting talent. 

Observation of Hispanic Heritage Week began in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson, and was expanded under President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to a month-long period. HHM has come to encompass the Caribbean, Central and South America, Mexico and Spain, and it runs for a thirty day span from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. 

“We’re very dedicated and committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. For as long as I can remember we’ve been celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month,” said Senior Director of the OSI Jean Ann Miller. “It’s part of Oakland — it’s always been a part of Oakland.” 

This year’s celebrations have included documentary screenings, faculty panels, a round-table on immigration with regional experts and leaders and even a presentation on the “Cajamarca Encounter” by University of Missouri-Columbia Associate Professor of Spanish Ivan Reyna. OU’s celebration of HHM will conclude on Friday, Oct. 15, with a traditional Mexican dance performance from the “Ballet Folklorico de Detroit.” 

“We picked it [the movie] because it is such a good representation of Hispanic culture,” said Jennifer Yetter, programming assistant for student organizations. “You can tell in the movie that it is widely depictive of different types of skin tone and race. Also, I love musicals and I think this one really fit in for the theme in the month that we wanted. And it is homecoming also, so I think it was a really fun homecoming thing.” 

OSI representatives reflected positively on how many students came out on a Friday night — away from studying or extracurricular activities — in order to gain a better understanding of Hispanic culture, and how that culture’s impact was recently translated into a Hollywood film with “In the Heights.” They also expressed how full the Habitat was throughout the entirety of the event, and showed hope that sometime in the future, campus life may regain some semblance of normalcy. 

“It is a more recent film,” said Miller. “It had just come out during the summertime and a lot of us weren’t able to see it on the big screen. We had that opportunity to show it on the big screen, which makes a big difference when compared with television [or streaming] for viewing the movie.”