Events to kick off Latino Awareness Month


Noon today in the King Memorial Commons marks the fifth consecutive kickoff celebration for Latino Cultural Awareness Month.

“We started this five years ago and we feel it’s really working,” said George Gutierrez, director of University Resources for Latinos. “It’s helping to get us better recognized and understood.”

Michael Gonzales, director of the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies, said the whole month is organized by students involved in the Latin American organizations.

“They’ve done a good job with bringing in a variety of speakers,” he said. “I’m happy to see various organizations involved and each one helping to sponsor its own activity.”

Starting the kickoff will be ethnic dance performances by Danca Quente, a group of NIU students.

Liz Monge, a member of the organizing committee for the month-long celebration, said she especially is looking forward to Baldemar Velasquez, the key speaker.

Velasquez will discuss “The Empowerment of the Farmworker” at 7 p.m. on April 8 in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium of the Holmes Student Center.

Monge also said she is looking forward to meet Mario Castillo, who will be on campus from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. April 9 and 10, holding a mural presentation/workshop in the Art Building. Gutierrez said everyone is invited to look at the mural, as well as help paint it.

“The murals are expressions of our culture,” Gutierrez said. “They portray the different aspects of our culture. If anyone wants to understand our culture more and get involved they can

go and figure it out.”

Castillo also will have an exhibit in the Holmes Student Center Gallery April 11 through April 28.

Gutierrez said some of the better events will be the jalapeno eating contest at noon on April 6 in the Commons, the “Taste of Mexico” dinner at noon in the Commons and the SALSArobics at 7 p.m. on April 14 in the Commons.

“The SALSArobics are aerobics and dancing set to Latin music,” Gutierrez said.

“When we started, our purpose was to express to the NIU community the differences in our cultures,” Gutierrez said. “Our main goal is to enculturate as many students at NIU as possible. Hopefully, this will eventually bring about a better feeling of Latinos.”

Monge said she hopes people will gain a better understanding of the diversity of different cultures. “There are a lot of generalizations and they’re not true. We’re trying to correct the misconceptions through these events.”

“In the case of many things the events transmit important information about things that are important to Latinos and other groups,” Gonzales said.

He also said the cultural events in the Latino Cultural Awareness Month “not only entertain, but convey a slice of our culture people aren’t always aware of.”

“We’re trying to emphasize a spirit of integration,” Gutierrez said.