USFSM students enjoy a dance workshop last week during Hispanic Heritage Month.

USF Sarasota-Manatee celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: October 05, 2017

SARASOTA, Fla. (Oct. 05, 2017)USF Sarasota-Manatee is embracing Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15-Oct. 15, with a Latin festival and trip to the Hispanic Heritage Celebration Luncheon at USF Tampa.

Last week’s festival included ethnic food and Latin dance lessons, followed by a production of four plays – two in Spanish and two in English – at the Selby Auditorium. Today, 10 USFSM students, faculty and staff traveled to USF’s Marshall Student Center in Tampa for a luncheon sponsored by the Status of Latinos Committee, a presidential advisory committee. Spectrum News Anchor Veronica Cintron, who was born in Puerto Rico, will give the keynote address.

All this comes as USFSM is increasing efforts to enroll more Hispanic students. The campus recently hired a Spanish speaking admissions counselor, Juan Arcila, and entered into a partnership with the community group Unidos Now, which encourages and prepares Hispanic students for college.

juan arcila admissions counselor usfsm

Juan Arcila

As a result of these and other changes, enrollment of freshman and transfer students who identify as Hispanic increased by more than 60 percent this fall. Altogether, USFSM registered 100 Hispanic students for classes.

As USFSM’s Hispanic culture becomes more visible, events like Hispanic Heritage Month serve as reminders that Hispanics encompass a variety of backgrounds and nationalities, says Spanish instructor Roberto Jiménez-Arroyo, faculty advisor to USFSM’s Latin American Student Association.

“It’s really a worldwide culture,” he said, adding that Hispanics share more than a common language but similar historical and political origins as well.

Roberto Arroyo Jimenez USF Sarasota-Manatee USFSM

Roberto Arroyo Jimenez

“We have so much cultural richness because we have embraced customs from every part of the world,” he said. “The idea of being Hispanic is really about embracing world heritage. Although we are different, we are united by that heritage.”

That common bond appeals to Omaylis Colon-Luna, a pre-engineering student born in Puerto Rico. A freshman student, she came to Florida three years ago.

“I just love that whether you’re from Puerto Rico or anywhere else in Latin America, you share that bond of being Hispanic,” she said. “It makes me want to talk about my own culture.”

Carlos Moreira, a finance major and president of USFSM’s Latin American Student Association, said he appreciates that despite differences, similar cultural themes emerge across Latin America, the Caribbean and other places where Hispanics reside.

“Each country has its own culture, food and celebrations, but internally there is still this unity of being Hispanic,” he said.

Nowhere else is this more evident than New York City during the Hispanic Day Parade. The annual celebration along Fifth Avenue includes 4,000 marchers and colorful costumes and floats. About a million people attend each year.

Moreira, an Ecuadorean native who grew up in New York City, said the parade acknowledges the diversity and unity of Hispanic people and draws celebrants from Latin neighborhoods citywide.

Hispanic Heritage Month starts Sept. 15 because many Latin American countries celebrate their independence on that date, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Additionally, Mexico marks its independence on Sept. 16 and Chile on Sept. 18.

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