Edwin Murillo gets excited he talks about National Hispanic Heritage Month, which takes place Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.
“I enjoy this month because it gives me a chance to talk about something that I find to be very important,” said Murillo, an associate professor of Spanish in the Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures Department at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“Since 2010, Hispanics are the largest minority in the United States. Although we aren’t historically new, the country is becoming more aware of us, and this is why Hispanic Heritage Month is so important to continue to educate the United States about its history, its own culture and how Hispanics are an important part of it.”
National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the cultures and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans. Initially started as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson in 1968, it was expanded to a month-long observation in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan.
Murillo said there is a historical reason why Hispanic Heritage Month begins in the middle of one month and continues through the middle of the following month—most Latin American countries gained their independence from Spain between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15. For example, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua celebrate their independence on Sept. 15, while Mexico’s Independence Day celebration follows on Sept. 16.
“This month also gives me the opportunity to conflate both Hispanic heritage and a talk on the history of Hispanics and their involvement in every single military engagement the United States has ever waged,” Murillo said. “From the American Revolution up until 2021, Hispanics have been a part of every single military engagement.
“This sort of awakening to Hispanic presence isn’t technically new. In 1990, then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney commissioned a booklet that recognized Hispanic presence.”
The UTC Office of Multicultural Affairs, in partnership with divisions and organizations across the campus, has numerous events planned as part of “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.”
The month-long celebration of Hispanic and Latin culture begins Sept. 15 with a kickoff event at the Multicultural Center’s Lupton Hall location from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Highlights of the month’s festivities include:
- Fiesta Fridays from noon-1 p.m. each Friday of Hispanic Heritage Month in the Multicultural Center’s Lupton Hall location.
- A Sept. 23 game night featuring lotería, a traditional Hispanic game of chance similar to bingo but uses illustrated cards instead of bingo balls.
- Bachata and cumbia dance night on Sept. 30, featuring student leaders from the Hispanic Outreach Leadership Association (HOLA). Cumbia is a Latin dance style that originated in Colombia, while bachata is a social dance that originated in the Dominican Republic.
- A networking resource fair on Oct. 5 for students, faculty, staff and community partners.
- An Oct. 13 film screening of Afro-Latins: An Untaught History, a documentary about Africans who now live in Latin America. The Zoom event will include a virtual Q&A with the film’s director/producer, Renzo Devia.
A complete listing of activities can be found by clicking on the Multicultural Center’s Hispanic Heritage Month webpage.
The UTC Library is celebrating the month by featuring a series of special collections about Hispanic heritage, including electronic resources titled Race in Latin America, Afro Latin@s, Latin@s in the United States South and Afro Latin American Culture. The resources can be found by clicking on the Library’s Celebrating Hispanic Heritage webpage.