National Hispanic Month begins at NIU

By Julie Zvitkovits

National Hispanic Month is celebrated across the country during April and for the first time will be celebrated at NIU and in DeKalb.

Festivities began yesterday with a flag ceremony at the King Memorial Commons at noon. A group of high school students from Rockford dressed in native costumes carried flags representing Hispanic countries.

Beige armbands were worn by some students to create an awareness of the lack of Hispanic faculty members on campus, said University Programming Coordinator Z. Ahmad.

“It’s not a protest, but an awareness,” said Bob Cordero, vice president of the Organization for Latin American Students (OLAS).

Speakers included University Resources for Latinos Director George Gutierrez, NIU President John La Tourette, DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow, NIU Provost Kendall Baker and Assistant Dean Orville Jones.

La Tourette cited the “major role Hispanics played in the development of the U.S.” as one reason he has declared every April as National Hispanic Month at NIU. One of his goals is to increase the Hispanic graduation rate in the future.

In past years, there have been week-long celebrations sponsored by the University Resources for Latinos. Cordero helped form a planning committee in September to expand the celebration over a whole month.

“I hope the month will make people aware of Hispanics and their cultures,” said Cordero, an NIU junior.

“!Unidos—El Futuro es Nuestro!” which means “United—The Future is Ours!” is the theme of the month.

ispanics are the fastest growing U.S. minority and include many different cultures other than just Mexicans, said Yolanda Trevino, University Resources for Latinos programming coordinator.

The main speaker of the month, Mexican author and sociologist Carlos Fuentes, had to cancel Wednesday evening’s speech. Fuentes, who was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature, had to return to Spain earlier than he had planned, Trevino said.

April 10 there will be a graduate school forum entitled “Labels: Latino or Hispanic?” at 8 p.m. in the Holmes Student Center’s Heritage Room.

Chilean filmmaker Antonio Skarmeta will lecture after “Ardiente Paciencia (Burning Patience)” is shown April 25 at 8:45 p.m. in the Holmes Student Center’s Carl Sandburg Auditorium.

Information about the many other events of National Hispanic Month is available from the University Resources for Latinos office at 753-1986.