Wildcats Celebrate Their Hispanic Roots


     The Hispanic population of the United States is about 58 million, making them the nation's largest ethnic or racial minority, according to 2016 figures complied by the Census Bureau. 

     The breadth of the Latino/a experience is a vital aspect of America's rich and diverse past. In 1989 Congress expanded what had been National Hispanic Heritage Week into National Hispanic Heritage Month. The starting point for the celebration is Sept. 15 because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively.

    The official celebration ends Oct. 15 and during the 30 days in between we stop to recognize the contributions made, and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States by focusing on their heritage and culture. 

     I am Colombian and one of a number of Hispanic students attending Bethune-Cookman University. Within the B-CU community you can find a number of Latinos or mixed Latinos and while some do not speak Spanish, their background and roots make them a significant part of the Hispanic or Latino community here.

     Some, like me, left their native countries to attend B-CU on a journey to find knowledge and obtain a bachelor's degree. With us we brought a whole different culture that we find the need to readjust in this environment. I can personally attest to this fact. Hispanic Heritage Month provides a platform for us to educate everyone else about our culture and what is behind it. It is important to know that Latinos come in very different forms. 

     One idea that I have found interesting since I arrived here is the misconception that if you identify as Latino or Hispanic, you can't be white, black, Asian, for example. Latin America was colonized by Spain and England, which means that we come in all shades and colors. Therefore, within the Hispanic community it is common to find black and white people, mixed races and multicultural people. 

     Yes, we are mostly mixed, but back in our communities we do use labels as "white" or "black" to identify ourselves. Therefore, we find it confusing for someone to tell us that we are not something that we have embraced. 

     "I came to an HBCU mainly for the experience and to also show and inform others about my culture," said Sasha Castaneda, a sophomore here. "...The simple fact that I am Hispanic is very shocking to some considering my skin color recognizes me as black, Individuals tend to confuse being Hispanic/Latino as a race not an ethnicity."

     There is such a thing as being black and white Latino and we proudly embrace it. Finally, one of the plus of attending an HBCU is that it gives us Latinos the opportunity to be surrounded by people who fully understand what is like to be part of a minority and how to work around that to seek opportunities. It also gives us the chance to teach others what makes us unique

Essay by Karen Romero

Alejandra Vidal, senior

Maracaibo, Venezuela

Major: hospitality management

Captain, women's tennis team

Alvaro Barrera, senior 

Madrid, Spain 

Major: biology 

Men's tennis team 

David Mata, freshman

New York/Dominican Republic 

Major: criminal justice

Pitcher, baseball team