This year’s Hispanic Celebration at Oakland University not only recognizes the diversity of Hispanic cultures, but also commemorates the bicentennial anniversary of Mexican independence.
The festivities started on Monday with an opening ceremony in the Oakland Center that included a mariachi band and Hispanic desserts.
The Hispanic Celebration originally came courtesy of the center for student activities but has since moved to the Multicultural Initiatives Office.
“The university has a rich commitment to diversity,” Jean Ann Miller, director of the center for student activities and chair of the celebration planning committee, said. “One of the ways we’ve shown this in the past, present and likely the future is highlighting ethnicities, often in correspondence with national celebrations.”
Although the campus has hosted Hispanic Celebration activities in prior years, planning committee member Alejandro Herrera said this year’s celebration is more involved than past celebrations.
“The difference in this year’s Hispanic Celebration activities is the grandness of the bicentennial celebration itself,” Herrera said. “Not only is Mexico celebrating its bicentennial independence, but so are Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela.”
On Sept. 16, a 200th Anniversary of Independence Day Celebration for all of the countries will take place from 4 – 7 p.m. in the Gold Rooms in the Oakland Center. The celebration will include food, vendors and traditional dances from the countries.
Additional Hispanic Celebration month activities this year include a service project at the Hispanic Outreach Center of Pontiac on Sept. 18, a debate on immigration that will include Mexican Consul Vicente Sanchez on Sept. 27 from noon – 1:30 p.m., a closing ceremony featuring the film “El Norte” on Oct. 1 and a special “Stand Up for Diversity” comedy tour at Friday Night Live on Oct. 15.
“We’re trying to create a signature event that people can look forward to every year, comparable to the Taste of Africa event for our African-American celebration,” Miller said. “We’re trying to make our Independence Day celebration a big event that everyone will look forward to.”
Angela Milliken, a native of Peru, is a special lecturer of Spanish at OU and has helped to plan the Hispanic Celebration events. She said she is especially excited for the debate on immigration, especially in light of recent legislation related to the topic. She hopes attending the debate will help her students with oral presentations on immigration that she requires in her course, as well as give them a better understanding of the area’s culture.
“We always have a lot of students that take Spanish at OU and this will be a good way for the OU community to get exposed and more familiar with the Hispanic culture,” Milliken said.
Herrera shares these goals for the festival, hoping it will enlighten his fellow students.
“One of the great things about attending Oakland is that you meet students from all backgrounds and can share your different experiences,” Herrera said. “I hope that this celebration teaches the OU community something they didn’t know before and allows them to become more open to celebrating Hispanic heritage and the heritage of other nationalities.”
Miller said that salsa lessons will be available for students at the finale of the Hispanic events. She said the lessons are popular and will be free for Oakland students.