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Drake organizations celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

LA FUERZA LATINA hosted a banquet featuring a mariachi band, folklórico dancers and food from Hispanic cultures. PHOTO BY Veronica Meiss | Contributing writer

The brassy tones of trumpets and the strums of guitars met every guest who walked into Olmsted Center’s Parents Hall after being greeted by members of La Fuerza Latina. The room was adorned with flags representing different countries in Central and South America as well as table centerpieces with red, orange and white flowers in small vases. All the planning and decoration was perfect for the closing event of Hispanic Heritage Month — LFL’s annual banquet. 

A long line began to form by the photo booth, where friends and family grabbed props and signs to create silly and genuine memories. Loved ones gathered together, eating sugar-decorated churros and drinking orange blossom punch. According to LFL members, every aspect of this event accomplishes what LFL wanted to achieve. 

“[The banquet] really exceeded my expectations,” Karle Rosales Gearhart, vice president of LFL, said. “I think just the energy, the attendance, the people who spoke and Sodexo [were great.] Overall, I’m very, very happy with it.”

LFL focuses on promoting inclusivity, open dialogue and Latino culture on campus. LFL accomplishes this through providing professional opportunities for Latino students, serving Latinos in the Des Moines area and showcasing Latino culture on campus.

Hispanic Heritage Month takes place annually from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 to celebrate Hispanic culture and contributions in the United States. This year, LFL organized events at least once a week during the month to get other students interested in LFL.

This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month festivities began Sept. 16 with a silent disco featuring a variety of Latino music. To organize this event, LFL worked with Silent Disco DSM, a company that specializes in delivering music mixed live by DJs through wireless headphones instead of speakers.

“[The Silent Disco] was to get people immersed in the Latino culture because not many people listen to Latino songs,” Rosales Gearhart said.

Other LFL-sponsored events for the month included Fútbol y Tacos on Sept. 22, serving Monarca Paletas on Sept. 27 and a screening of “The Curse of La Llorona” for Free Movie Friday on Sept. 29. Sophomore William Lainez, LFL’s first-year mentor, said that all of the events were very successful, especially the paletas.

“The goal of [the events was] to bring light to Hispanic Heritage Month, as well as to provide some type of fun for everyone,” Lainez said.

LFL finished the month with a banquet held Oct. 8. The event featured a mariachi band, folklórico dancers, traditional food and guest speakers. Sodexo catered the menu, which included foods from several Hispanic cultures such as ropa vieja, Spanish rice, espagueti verde and churros.

“[We had] a lot of entertainment and speakers,” Rosales Gearhart said. “[We hoped] it would be a really fun event [to help us] really embrace our culture and the richness of it.”

The Access Services team at Cowles Library also worked to bring awareness to Hispanic Heritage Month by creating a book display.

“Every month, Cowles tries to have some sort of featured collection that [speaks] to the diversity of the population that we have at Drake,” Coordinator of Library Outreach and Communication Erin Menardi said. “This month is Hispanic Heritage Month, so there was a big collection of work that’s written either by Hispanic or Latinx authors or feature characters that are in that community.”

For the display, Access Services Librarian Deana Cunningham curated a list of 50 to 60 novels that were purchased and added to the library’s collection. This year, Cunningham focused on incorporating the perspectives of Latinas and queer Hispanic heritage.

“It is the right thing to do to bring Hispanic heritage and any marginalized community to the forefront to make sure everybody sees themselves represented,” Cunningham said. “[The library] is a melting pot of people and needs and viewpoints, and we have to expand people’s perspectives.”

As Drake is a predominantly White institution (PWI), it’s especially important to LFL to represent their culture on campus.

“I know when I came to Drake, it was really difficult for me to be here because I felt really alone,” LFL President Cristina Baez said. “Seeing people come to support my culture and seeing everyone be so respectful just really means a lot to me.”

According to LFL Marketing and Public Relations Chair Erika Roehrs, Hispanic Heritage Month is only the beginning of LFL’s presence on campus this year.

“Going forward, I think [it’s] just to continue spreading the word,” Roehrs said. “We have a bunch of supporters who came out tonight, so [by] reaching out to them [and] relying on our supporters, I think we’ll continue to have a great presence on campus.”

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