Goshen College’s Latino Student Union invited campus to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month yesterday, a time of national celebration and remembrance for the American Latino community that began Sept. 15.

More than two dozen flags of Latin American countries lined the front of College Mennonite Chapel, as members of the Goshen College Latino Student Union spoke. Five canvases painted by Yadira Figueroa, a 2018 graduate were displayed on stage the aspects of Latino character: Amor, Belleza, Fuerte, Pasion y Valiente - Love, Beauty, Strength, Passion and Bravery.

“Our theme this year is ‘Proud of who I am,’” said Pamela Ortiz Ramirez, president of Latino Student Union. “Our focus is to acknowledge who we are as Latinos y Latinas and people from every race and culture in this community, and to create an environment of acceptance everywhere we go by being proud of who we are.”

The 2019-2020 Latino Student Union leadership team includes Dali Rodriguez, public relationships; Lisa Rosado Rivera, cultural events coordinator; Berenice Rodriguez, treasurer; Adriana Martinez Diaz De Leon, vice president; and Pamela Ortiz Ramirez, president. This year’s new club advisor is Richard Aguirre, community impact coordinator at Goshen College.

Born in El Paso, Texas but with family roots in Chihuahua, Mexico and surname origins in Spain, Aguirre recognizes himself as one who is “proud to be a Mexicano and Latino.”

“Not all Latinos speak Spanish,” Aguirre said. “And not all Latinos are brown; they’re of every race and ethnicity. So this Hispanic Heritage Month convocation is for all of you. And we’re happy you’re here.”

Aguirre, the main speaker for the event, drew on his personal experience, time as co-coordinator of the Peru Study-Service Term five years ago and connection to his claimed heroes, specifically Cesar Chavez.

A favorite portrait of Chavez, former leader of the United Farm Workers Union, hangs in Aguirre’s office.

“I look at Cesar Chavez every day, all day,” Aguirre said. “And that's appropriate because Cesar Chavez was one of my earliest heroes. He inspired generations of Americans, many of them Latinos, because of his courage and his commitment to social change. I admired Cesar Chavez because he taught me to be ‘Proud of Who I am.’”

Aguirre met and interviewed Chavez during his time as a newspaper reporter and believes, “if he was alive today, Cesar Chavez would see that there is much to celebrate.”

While the Hispanic student population continues to climb from its current 25% at Goshen College, Latinx numbers are also on the rise across the nation. Aguirre noted that the Latinx community is the nation's largest racial ethnic group, with 16 million residents. Latinx community members are 7% of Indiana’s population, 16% of Elkhart County’s population and 30% of the population in Goshen. 

But it’s not all celebration.

I've been thinking a lot about Chavez lately because of the mistreatment of immigrants, refugees and other people of color,” Aguirre said. “At times, things seem hopeless.”

Yet it is amidst both the celebration and the despair that Aguirre honed in on Goshen College’s theme of servant leadership as a practice that will help us work towards achieving inclusion, equity and true justice for the Latinx population, for all people.

Aguirre closed with words from Cesar Chavez himself: 

"Like the other immigrant groups, the day will come when we win the economic and political rewards which are in keeping with our numbers in society. The day will come when the politicians do the right thing by our people out of political necessity and not out of charity or idealism.

"That day may not come this year. That day may not come during this decade. But it will come, someday! And when that day comes, we shall see the fulfillment of that passage from the Book of Matthew (20: 16) in the New Testament, ‘That the last shall be first and the first shall be last.’"

Student music group, Mechudos y Peludos, provided music throughout the convocation, sophomore Stephanie Covarrubias Palomino shared a poem titled “Translation for Mama” by Richard Blanco and Latino Student Union’s leadership team shared statements from members of the club.

We are proud of who we are because of “my family, my culture, my language, my food,” Ortiz Ramirez said.

“I am proud of being a woman of color,” said Dali Rodgriguez.

“I am proud to be Hispanic because I have a voice,” Rosado Rivera said.


Upcoming events for LSU:

Oct. 2  (10-11 a.m.)- Workshop on what it’s like to be Hispanic

Oct. 5 (3-5 p.m.) - Hispanic Heritage Month picnic at John Ingold Athletic Complex

Oct. 27 - LSU meeting