With so much happening in the world, many of us are looking for reprieve wherever we can find it. Yet, it is becoming increasingly impossible to separate our celebrations from the politics of the moment. Latinx Heritage Month 2022 is no different.
While we were beginning the month-long celebration of the contributions of Americans of Mexican, Spanish, Caribbean and Central American descent, powerful politicians in other parts of the country were conducting a cruel political stunt targeting largely Venezuelan migrants. Specifically, the governors from Florida and Texas misled and sent dozens of asylum seekers to sanctuary cities, effectively stranding these families and individuals. At this point, it’s naive to assume the timing is a coincidence.
This dehumanizing stunt, which some have compared to the “Reverse Freedom Rides” conducted by segregationists in 1962, is meant to send an overt message. It works in conjunction with the unmistakable dynamic of erasure at play when the majority of people in Puerto Rico are without power while news stations dedicate their resources instead to covering other less urgent issues. Highlighting and honoring history is one of the many tools to combat the normalization of this casual cruelty and erasure in our society and Latinx Heritage Month is a great opportunity to do just that, as well as all year round.
Hispanic Heritage Month was originally sanctioned by President Lyndon as a week-long celebration, Hispanic Heritage Week, in 1968. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded the celebration to a month-long observation. Today, we officially recognize Latinx Heritage Month from September 15 through October 15 to commemorate the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, as well as Mexico and Chile, which celebrate their independence on September 16 and 18, respectively.
At the University of Oregon, we particularly honor and share the stories of individuals from these communities and their impact on our state. The UO also extends its Latinx Heritage Month programming through early November.
A lot of great work is taking place on the UO campus, and we’re incredibly proud of the positive contributions being made by our caring and brilliant Latinx students, staff and faculty, as well as co-conspirators, not just on the UO campus, but also in the entire Eugene and Lane County communities and the world beyond. For example, John Arroyo, Assistant Professor in Planning, Public Policy and Management, along with colleagues Stephanie LeMenager, Mark Carey, Laura Pulido, Alai Reyes-Santos, and Marsha Weisiger, recently received a $4.52 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support a new initiative envisioning a transformative research platform for racial and climate justice. It is, indeed, the largest humanities award in UO history.
In addition to these outstanding individual achievements, we also want to highlight the departments helping push the UO forward through their work to build a formidable infrastructure for excellence in Latinx research, teaching and community engagement. UO’s Latinx Studies Program, led by Audrey Lucero, Associate Professor in the College of Education, is creating a formidable curriculum and Latinx Scholars Academic Residential Community. The Center for Latino/a & Latin American Studies, led by Chris Chavez, Assoc. Professor in Media Studies, Advertising, and Latinx Studies in the School of Journalism and Communication, continues its longstanding work in supporting research excellence, translational research and community building. A team of faculty and staff led by Laura Pulido, Professor of Geography and Indigenous, Race and Ethnic Studies, is doing potentially groundbreaking work investigating the possibility of the UO becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution. Romance Languages is advancing essential research in recognizing the personal, familial, or community connection to Spanish through the Spanish Heritage Language program led by Sergio Loza, Assistant Professor of Spanish Linguistics. And Rosa Chavez, in her new role as Director of the Center on Multicultural Academic Excellence (CMAE), leads a campus hub for advising and student support.
Meanwhile, groups like MEChA, Muxeres, the Latinx Strategy Group, Dreamers Working Group, the Latinx Male Alliance, Unidos@UO of SOJC, the Latinx Law Students Association, and many others are doing amazing work every day to create a better environment for students!
We are extremely proud of the aforementioned individuals, organizations and departments. They are examples of the good work that UO is doing in this area, but there is much more to do when it comes to incorporating success and belonging for faculty, staff and students of Latinx Heritage in all aspects of daily campus life and processes.
Throughout Latinx Heritage Month 2022, we’ll be hosting plenty of opportunities to celebrate the contributions, both historical and contemporary, of Oregon, Eugene and the UO’s Latinx community. There will also be opportunities to explore and organize around the work that still must be done at the UO. We hope you will join us and invite your friends!
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion
Professor of Political Science