At Mills, Latina heritage month is relatively new, but over the years, the College and other institutions have expanded their activities and dedications to celebrate this annual history month.
“It had not become an institutionalized event until 2002,” said ethnic studies professor Deborah Santana.
Professor Santana worked on a grant in 2002 to help fund and support Latina heritage events, and through her and others’ work it has become a success.
September was not established as a historical month of celebration for Latinos until the ’70s when it was recognized as a national holiday by the government. Since then, on campuses around the country, it has found great support.
Lilian Gonzalez, the president of Mujeres Unidas, was enthusiastic about her favorite event. “Oh, my salsa night, girl!” she said, referring to the big dance held every year in the Student Union, where students dance to a mix of salsa, meringue and Orquesta Borinquen, a Puerto Rican band.
“No other time on the Mills campus is there a dance night like this one. Last year was off the hook,” said Ixquel Sarin, a student photographer, as well as a former president of Mujeres Unidas. “Girls get decked out, and boy do they look good.”
The big Latin dance is one of the most attended events put on by Mujeres and the ethnic studies department.
Rosa Gomez, a student at Acalanes High School in Lafayette, said she comes to the East Bay with her family to attend events for Latino heritage month. She said her school, in Contra Costa County, does very little to celebrate.
She is one of very few Latinas in the school, and said Latina heritage month is very important because it gives her a sense of pride, and would enable non-Latinos to learn a little more about her world and history.
“At school Hispanic, heritage month isn’t very celebrated. The library will put out books, but that is all I have ever seen the school do. It’s kind of sad actually.” Luckily for Gomez, the East bay is only a tunnel drive away.
Mills is just one institution recognizing Latino heritage month in the Bay Area. Every September, KQED, a public radio and television station for Northern California, honors several Latino/a activists and community leaders for their contributions to their communities and to the social good. They have a line-up of television programs profiling people, events and issues, past and present, relating to West Indians, Central and South Americans.
Community centers and cultural venues such as La Peña in Berkeley, honor Latino/a artists and activists regularly but give them special attention this month through October.
It will be celebrated at Mills through Oct. 15.