September 03, 2008

SIUC to celebrate Latino Heritage Month

by Christi Mathis

alina- fernandez

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- You’ve seen his face and heard his voice on news reports for decades. It’s been nearly 50 years since the fiery revolutionary took the reigns as Cuba’s leader. But what would it be like to grow up with Fidel Castro as your father? Alina Fernandez knows and she’s coming to Southern Illinois University Carbondale to share her story.

Fernandez was just a toddler when her father led the overthrow of the Batista government during the 1959 revolution. She watched the story unfold on television by day and then often played all night long with her father before he’d disappear again for months at a time. Her childhood was a mixed bag, a combination of privilege and deprivation.

Though one of Cuba’s elite, she watched the politics of the 1960s and 1970s and became disillusioned, even joining the political dissident movement during the 1980s. In disguise, she fled Cuba in 1993 and currently lives in the Florida. Her story, “Castro’s Daughter: An Exile’s Memoir of Cuba,” hit the shelves in 1998, and now she’ll tell her story first hand at 7 p.m. on Sept. 29 in Ballroom D of the SIUC Student Center.

Hernandez’s visit is just one of the interesting and inspiring events during SIUC’s 2008 Latino Heritage Month.

“Latino Heritage Month is one focal point of this tapestry we call ‘America,’” said Carmen Suarez, director of the Office of Diversity and Equity. “The month, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, observes, commemorates and celebrates the history of Hispanics in the United States, identifies the many backgrounds of these people we call ‘Hispanics’ and highlights the cultures and contributions of Latinos. Due to both births and continuing immigration, Latinos are a large population percentage of the United States. What do we know about these people, our fellow Americans, neighbors, friends and family? This year’s observance at SIUC offers a chance for greater familiarity.

“The activities span cultural highlights such as Festival Latino and the highly popular salsa dance Noche de Gala,” added Suarez. “The month offers well-researched information and guided discussion on the hot topic of immigration and undocumented workers, hands-on events like piñata and tamale making, movies, a migrant farm worker workshop and many other activities to attract all of our campus community. Come join the fun, come learn, come celebrate.”

There’s a full and eclectic schedule of special activities and events, as varied as are the participants. Unless otherwise noted, everything is free and open to the public.

“SIUC is a community of diverse cultures,” said Carl Ervin, coordinator of Student Development-Multicultural Programs and Services. “Latino Heritage Month is a wonderful opportunity for the members of the many cultures that comprise SIUC to enhance their understanding of others and build their multicultural competencies by sampling, experiencing and learning more about Latino cultures, peoples, and communities.”

The Latino Heritage Month 2008 schedule includes:

Tuesday, Sept. 9-Tuesday, Sept. 16

• Latino Heritage Month exhibit in the north entrance display case at the Student Center highlighting Latino cultures, organizations and upcoming special activities.

Tuesday, Sept. 9

• Latino Study Jam, 9 p.m., Big Muddy Room on lower level of Student Center. It’s a chance to meet and greet Latino students working for academic success and enjoy free food and refreshments.

Saturday, Sept. 13

• 12th Annual Welcome Picnic, 1-4 p.m., Bucky’s Haven at campus kake. A picnic to celebrate everyone’s return to campus, with free food, fun and entertainment, including breaking a piñata.

Thursday, Sept. 18

• Make your own piñata, 6-8 p.m., Student Center Craft Shop, with additional flexible hours for finishing. Individually or in groups, you can design, create, paint and decorate a traditional piñata or a more creative modernistic style and fill it with your own goodies. The cost is $15 per piñata and covers supplies. For more information contact the Craft Shop at 618/453-3636 or look online at

Friday, Sept. 19

• Festival Latino, noon at the Free Forum Area north of McAndrew Stadium. A celebration of Latino culture with free food, a live band and more.

Monday, Sept. 22

• Shabuya, 12:15 p.m. in the Mississippi Room at the Student Center. SIUC alumnus Mario Contreras created this look at the Freedom Ride experience of migrant workers for his senior thesis and the story of the ride to Washington, D.C., includes a revealing stop at the office of a member of Illinois’ congressional delegation. A U-Card event.

• Salsa dance lessons, 7-10 p.m., Ballroom B on second floor of Student Center. Free salsa dance lessons for beginners or experienced dancers wanting a bit of practice honing their skills.

Tuesday, Sept. 23

• The Struggle for Fair Food: The Taste of Justice for Migrant Farm Workers, 6:30 p.m., Student Center Illinois Room. Members of Coalition of Immokalee Workers, an internationally known, Florida-based migrant farm worker-led human rights organization, and representatives of the Illinois Migrant Council, speak of the agricultural industry’s human rights crisis and struggles of migrant farm laborers. They’ll tell of their search for adequate housing, fair wages, access to health care and proper educations for their children. They’ll talk about the effects of a globalized political economy and how people can affect change. A U-Card event.

Wednesday, Sept. 24

• Tamales at Old Main Restaurant in the Student Center. Tamale dinner available 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. for $6.75.

Friday, Sept. 26

• Noche de Gala, 8 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.) in Ballroom D of the Student Center. Wearing semi-formal attire, participants will enjoy an evening of salsa dancing and live music. More than 600 joined in the fun in 2007.

Saturday, Sept. 27

• Family Weekend welcome BBQ, 1 p.m., Bucky’s Haven on campus lake. Free barbecue and fun with family and friends.

Monday, Sept. 29

• An evening with Alina Fernandez, daughter of Fidel Castro, 7 p.m., Ballroom D of the Student Center. Growing up in Cuba as Castro’s daughter, Fernandez later left her country in disguise and currently hosts a daily radio program in Miami focusing on Cuban and Cuban-American issues. A U-Card event.

Tuesday, Sept. 30

• Ice cream social and open microphone night, 8 p.m., lower level of Grinnell Hall. Free ice cream for all as SIUC poets, lyricists and commentators present their thoughts and works.

Wednesday, Oct. 1

• Forum -- Border of Justice: Fact and Fiction in the Immigration Debate, 7 p.m. Mississippi Room, Student Center. A panel of experts will share their knowledge and answer questions about immigration, policy, law and justice. A U-Card event.

Saturday, Oct. 4

• Latino Happy Factory, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Student Center Craft Shop, participants will make wooden cars for children in the state’s migrant worker camps.

Monday, Oct. 6

• “A Day without a Mexican,” 7 p.m., Student Center Mississippi Room. Elvis Ortega will serve as facilitator for the discussion that follows the film depicting a strange and unexplained disappearance of the entire Latin American population. Ortega, director of the Center for Academic Success at Triton College, is a popular speaker and community activist and he’ll lead the discussion of the film and of Mexicans in America. A U-Card event.

Wednesday, Oct. 8

• The Bronze Screen: 100 Years of Latinos in Hollywood, 7 p.m., Student Center Mississippi Room. Rare footage of films from silent movies to urban gang films will illustrate Hollywood’s distorted screen image and the current increasing prominence of Latino actors, writers and directors. A U-Card event.

Thursday, Oct. 9

• Tamales class, 5-7 p.m., Student Center Craft Shop. Learn to make authentic tamales and enjoy sampling one of the world’s oldest “fast foods.” Cost is $10.

Saturday, Oct. 11

• Homecoming Latino tailgate and celebration, 11:30 a.m., SIUC tailgate area near McAndrew Stadium. Latin music, cuisine and fun are on the menu.

Sunday, Oct. 12

• Friends and Neighbors -- closing ceremony for Latino Heritage Month, 1:30 p.m. at St. Francis Xavier Church, 303 Poplar St., Carbondale. A community brunch and fellowship open to all.

Tuesday, Oct. 14

• “Self Determination and Community Defense in Oaxaca and Beyond,” 6:30 p.m., Illinois Room at Student Center. Documentary filmmaker Simon Sedillo uses his films about the lives of indigenous people and social movement struggles in southern Mexico to depict globalization implications. A U-Card event.

Saturday, Oct. 18

• Hispanic Student Council “Adopt-a-Spot,” 10:30 a.m. beginning at circle drive at Student Center and spreading out for community service.

Tuesday, Oct. 21

• Latino outdoor movie night, 7:30 p.m., Student Recreation Center. The Hispanic Student Council brings a surprise Latino-style film to the big screen outside for an evening of special entertainment. Bring a chair, blanket or something to lounge on while you enjoy the movie.

Latino Heritage Month officially extends from Sept. 15, the anniversary of independence by Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, through Oct. 15. However, the University’s celebration is so immense and varied that it actually extends beyond those dates.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the U.S. was home to 45.5 million Hispanics in mid-2007, making it the second largest Latino-populated country in the world, behind only Mexico. Census officials anticipate a Hispanic population of 102.6 million in the country by July 2050. Nationally, 11 percent of all college students in the U.S. were Hispanic in the fall of 2006. SIUC established Latino Heritage Month in 1989, preceded by 20 years of the Hispanic Heritage Week celebration.

“Even if a student is not of Latino heritage, they should have an interest in new cultures,” said Sabrina Martin, a junior from Bradley majoring in English. “In order to appreciate our own heritage, we must first acknowledge and respect the differences in other cultures.”

Latino Heritage Month sponsors include: Student Development- Multicultural Programs and Services, the Hispanic Student Council, Sigma Lambda Beta Fraternity, Delta Phi Mu Sorority, Delta Psi Alpha Fraternity, the Associate Chancellor for Diversity office, Office of Diversity and Equity, Student Center Craft Shop and Student Center-SPACE.

For more information about any of the events, contact Student Development at 618/453-5714 or look online at