Jan. 16, 2018
As the nation celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, Biola’s Latino club, Unidos, focuses on the unique cultural identities of the Latin culture.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the U.S. from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 in remembrance of Latin American countries that gained independence in 1821. Unidos, led by co-presidents senior Carla Veliz and sophomore Elizabeth Martinez, is holding events throughout the month to highlight Latino students on campus.
“Why we wanted to celebrate [Hispanic Heritage Month] is … to be able to allow our Biola community, and even the Latino community on campus, to see the diversity in God’s Kingdom, and the way he uniquely placed us in our families and in our stories, and how all of these things shape who we are,” said Veliz, who is majoring in intercultural studies.
Veliz and Martinez wanted to hold at least one event per week during the month to celebrate their culture. Unidos held a Hispanic Heritage Month kickoff on campus before heading to Olvera Street in Los Angeles to learn about the history of Latinos in that area. Unidos also worked with the Caf to serve different Latin American foods, including pupusas, lomo saltado and pozole.
Unidos is hosting a closing event during the last week of Hispanic Heritage Month. Oct. 6 marked the start of the club’s biweekly meetings throughout the semester. At the first meeting, sociology professor Jonathan Calvillo spoke on the history of the Protestant Latino church and how the understanding of his cultural background affected his testimony. On Oct. 9, Unidos hosted Cocina Latina, a potluck and final celebration of the month.
Veliz believes this month is an opportunity for the Biola community to recognize and celebrate each other’s differences — not limited to just ethnicity, but also church backgrounds and socio-economic classes.
“On our campus, I often see more of a tendency towards the concept of being colorblind … [students] just don’t want to be divisive, don’t want to see some of the differences,” Veliz said. “We’re Christians, we’re the body of Christ — and that’s very true. But there is something beautiful in being able to understand our stories and learn from different values, different backgrounds.”
Even within the same ethnicity, Veliz recognizes that students have different cultural identities. As a part of a Hispanic Heritage Month photo project, Unidos asked students to hold up signs describing their personal cultural perspective. According to Veliz, the differences in their responses highlight the diversity within the Hispanic community at Biola.
“In order to go against this whole single-story way that we tend to see things, it’s really easy to just want to categorize things. It’s natural. I do it, we all do it,” said Veliz. “But this month provides a unique opportunity to try to dissuade that, to try to go above that and see the beauty in all of those differences.”
Veliz encourages Biolans to use this month as an opportunity to become more educated about Hispanic heritage and how it is reflected within the United States, specifically in regards to topics like immigration. Veliz is directly affected by immigration, as her dad immigrated from Guatemala and her mom from El Salvador. Because of this, she wants others to understand that celebrating Hispanic heritage also includes learning about different perspectives regarding immigration.
“I would encourage people to dig deeper into some of these topics that are controversial, but to try to see the many facets that are in a topic like immigration … not just seeing one side of things,” Veliz said.
Throughout her time at Biola, Veliz learned that students do not have to be afraid of their cultural background. Veliz notes that her cultural identity is a unique part of who she is.
“We don’t have to hide from the way that God has made us and, mainly speaking right now, our cultural identity,” said Veliz. “Embracing [my] culture identity in our identity in Christ — I think that’s glorifying to God because I see how I personally engage in fellowship with God, and that is through a cultural lens.”
Written by Angelene Wong. For more information, contact Jenna Loumagne, media relations specialist, at (562) 777-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
media [dot] relations [at] biola [dot] edu