SonManarcas performs

The eclectic Hispanic music of Son Monarcas, along with dance by SIU alumnus and “Salsa Ambassador” Julio Barrenzuela, is featured during Festival Latino, set for 5-8 p.m. Oct. 7, on the Student Services Building pavilion. Everyone is welcome to attend the free event. (Photo provided) 

September 15, 2022

SIU recognizing Hispanic/Latinx Heritage with many special activities this fall

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale is celebrating Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, which runs mid-September through mid-October, with a wide variety of special activities including guest speakers, music and dance, cultural events and festivals, tailgating, workshops and much more. All of the events are free and open to the public, except as noted.

The theme is “Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Campus and Community.”

“We work together, thrive together and are a family. We definitely convey the theme,” said Cristina Castillo, director of the Hispanic/Latino Resource Center. “This year’s schedule is full of amazing history, advocacy, contributions and the always vibrant and lively music, culinary events, history and crafty traditions. The events focus on four important components: culture, contributions, advocacy and history, and they align closely with some of the university’s strategic pillars, especially student success and engagement, our commitment to anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion, and community engagement. Even though those important aspects are intentionally imbedded in the programming, they are not separate from each other; they all overlap.”

Castillo emphasized that the Hispanic/Latinx people have a long and storied history and have contributed much to the United States and the world.

“Our culture is not separate from our history, much less our advocacy, and with it the contributions that as a result have created paths to a better life,” she said. “We Latinos are from this American continent, and we have been here longer than Western immigrants. We are intrinsic to this country, its history and its infrastructure, whether it’s geographical, economic or political; we are more than 18% of the U.S. population. Celebrating our heritage is an opportunity to showcase and educate people that we are a hardworking people who are no different than anyone else, with the same wants, needs and goals – to be happy, healthy, get an education, a home, food on our table.”

Kick-off event set for Sept. 19

Francesca Dennstedt, assistant professor of Spanish in SIU’s languages, cultures and international studies program in the College of Liberal Arts, will be the keynote speaker for the kickoff celebration and reception, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19, at the Student Center Auditorium.

Her research has focused on 20th century and contemporary Mexican literature and culture with an eye toward gender and queer theory and analyzing women’s cuir (a type of leather) cultural production in Mexico from the 1930s to the present. She’s currently working on a book about her work. Dennstedt earned her doctorate in Hispanic studies as well as a certificate in women, gender and sexuality studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

The kickoff will also feature a dance presentation by the Latin American Student Association. A reception will follow in the International Lounge. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Learn of immigrant experiences

Saul Flores, a philanthropist, photojournalist and speaker, walked 5,328 miles through 10 countries to illustrate and document the grueling and dangerous journeys immigrants face to make their way to the United States. He will speak and share some of his photographs at SIU at 7 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Student Center Auditorium. He continues to document the lives of thousands of Latin American immigrants to raise funds for an elementary school in his mother’s hometown while seeking to make a difference. NPR, MSNBC and TEDX are among the venues that have featured his work.

Celebrating success

A pair of luncheon events on Oct. 7 and 14 will celebrate and recognize SIU’s Hispanic/Latinx students and identify faculty and staff who pave the pathway to success for students. The Empowering and Nurturing Hispanic/Latinx Students’ Success Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 7 will focus on male students, and the Oct. 14 event at the same time will focus on female students. These luncheons are specifically for students, faculty and staff.

Everyone welcome at Festival Latino

The Festival Latino, set for 5-8 p.m. Oct. 7, on the Student Services Building pavilion, will be a wonderful evening of music and dance, free and open to all. It will feature Saluki alumnus Julio Barrenzuela, best known as the “Salsa Ambassador” and Son Monarcas, a Latin folk fusion ensemble led by Mercedes Inez and Irekani Ferreyra.

Barrenzuela, a U.S. Navy veteran, served overseas as a chaplain’s assistant and earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing at SIU and later a master’s degree in media for social justice at Woodbury University in Burbank, California. He’s now an acclaimed salsa dancer and motivational speaker who uses Latin music and dance to help participants gain a better understanding of themselves and their relationships to the larger community. He’s committed to ensure that all people, regardless of ability or cultural background, get the chance to “salsa as they’re able.”

Son Monarcas fuses indie soul with the traditional Hispanic music genres son and cumbia in a musical migration reminiscent of the monarch butterfly, from whence the group derives its name. The music is an eclectic blend incorporating Afro-Mestizo genres of Latin American folk music, traditional and contemporary styles, and original “son” arrangements.

Make salsa, music and more

A variety of other special experiences are available during the month. Highlights include:

  • Fiestas Patrias Game Night: Celebrating Latin America’s Independence, 4-6 p.m. Sept. 16, Student Services Building, Rooms 150-160.
  • Hispanic/Latinx Educational Bingo and Loteria (Mexican Bingo) night, 4-5:30 p.m. Sept. 23, Student Services Building, Rooms 150-160.
  • Family Weekend Tailgate, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sept. 24, Saluki Row.
  • “Understanding Hispanic/Latinx Students’ Issues and Characteristics and Best Practices for Better Retention Outcomes” training session, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Sept. 26, Old Main Room, Student Center, led by Castillo, this advocacy training will focus on understanding why the Hispanic population is the fastest growing minority yet lagging behind in educational attainment and what steps can be taken to turn that around.
  • Piñata Making Workshop, 4-6 p.m. Sept. 30. Hybrid event that is live in Student Services Building, Rooms 150-160 or on Facebook at com/SalukisUnidos.
  • Queer and Latinx Cinema “A Fantastic Woman,” 3 p.m. Oct. 13, Student Center Auditorium, with discussion hosted by Castillo and Seth Williams, featuring free popcorn, candy and giveaways.
  • Hispanic/Latinx student organizations will participate in the homecoming parade on Oct. 15.

Learn more

Find the complete schedule of events and additional information at

“I am very proud of the collaboration from across campus for Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month 2022, and that our students have also been very involved and helped co-sponsor events,” Castillo said. “We invite everyone to come and get to know us better, to learn more about our culture and take with them a new and enhanced understanding and mutual respect.”