Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with El Centro

“Viva Mexico!” cried students gathered at the Inter-Garrison Plaza last Friday night. On Sept. 15, 1810, the Mexican revolution began with this same “grito,” or battle cry, made by the Catholic Priest Father Miguel Hidalgo. This signified the beginning of Mexico’s struggle for freedom.

Mexico’s Día de la Independencia coincides with the declarations of independence made by Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Because of these important historical events, Sept.15 to Oct. 15 is designated as Hispanic Heritage Month, a time commemorating the independence of 18 Latin American countries.

Two people singing at a microphone with the mariachi band behind them.

On the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, California State University, Monterey Bay’s (CSUMB) El Centro program organized a night for students to celebrate Hispanic culture at the Otter Student Union (OSU). 

“El Centro is a center for Latinx student success and trying to create an authentic relationship between students, staff and faculty,” said Guadalupe Barragan, a third-year student and organizer for El Centro.

“[We’re] trying to get [students] to take advantage of all the resources available to them on campus…We’re trying to have some multicultural events for students that often go unnoticed. It’s really for everybody, you don’t have to be specifically Latinx,” said Barragan.

A mariachi band kept energy high at the gathering, performing favorite songs upon request from the crowd. 

“I didn’t know that they were going to have an entire mariachi band and I thought that was really cool,” shared second-year Jackie Flores. “As a Mexican, that’s such a big part of my culture … mariachi is part of everything, from our dances, to famous singers like Vicente Fernandez … it kind of gives us a sense of home away from home.”

The lively crowd sung along with the band as they sipped champurrado, a warm Mexican beverage consisting of chocolate and masa (corn flour).

Next came the ‘El Grito’ contest. Participants lined up for the opportunity to win prizes for the most emphatically delivered battle cry.

“I’m feeling pretty good. While I didn’t get the most applause, I did the best grito!” said the winner of the contest, Rogelio Mendoza, with a laugh.

Two people in the mariachi band playing guitars.

After a brief interlude, the 1987 film “La Bamba,” which outlines the life and music career of Mexican-American singer-songwriter, Ritchie Valens, played on the side of the OSU building. Equipped with blankets, warm champurrado and freshly made popcorn, students relaxed and enjoyed the evening. 

Many attendees expressed that cultural events such as this one are of great value to the student body, and felt that CSUMB is not currently doing enough to support the school’s large Latinx community.

“I wish the campus would emphasize [Latinx events] a little more because we have such a large population and it is super important to a lot of students,” said Corrina Rodriguez, a graduate student and El Centro organizer.

What can CSUMB do for its Latinx community? Jackie Flores believes that “the school needs to do everything it can to keep [Latinx culture] alive.”

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