Last Friday, Sept. 15, students passing through the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza were pleasantly surprised to find a fiesta bustling with celebration. The third annual Student Welcome and Hispanic Heritage Month Fiesta got underway at 11 a.m. and continued until 2 p.m., serving an array of cuisine options to students on their way to classes. The plaza quickly filled with students and community members who enjoyed good music, food and friendly mingling.
The event was hosted and staffed by the University of Maine Office of Multicultural Student Life, the Latin American Club, the Caribbean Club, the Black Student Union, Commuter and Non-traditional Student Programs and Campus Activities and Student Engagement. Many of these organizations operated tables at the event, offering information and perspectives from their members. The Women’s Resource Center and UMaine’s LGBTQ services were also present to offer help and support.
Some of the foods offered included tacos, Jamaican food, nachos, hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie dogs, chips and salsa, strawberry shortcake and Asian cuisine (lo mein and fried rice). Organizers of the event hoped the array of foods would include something for everyone, but also encouraged students to branch out and try new cuisines.
The real reason for the event, however, was to mark the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. Kicking it off with the fiesta, Hispanic Heritage Month will continue until Oct. 15. Silvestre Guzman, the director of the Office of Multicultural Student Life and the Rainbow Resource Center, helped organize the event.
“We put on the event to try to raise awareness about Heritage month because not too many people know about it on campus,” Guzman said. “We hoped to entice people with good food, but also encourage them to come together and interact with students from different backgrounds.”
Part of raising awareness about heritage month includes educating people about issues facing the Hispanic community today, as third-year international affairs student Dair Cruz is all too aware. Cruz specifically brought up the issue of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. Established under the Obama administration, this immigration policy was created in an effort to help individuals who entered the United States illegally as minors. DACA has received national attention recently after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced its repeal on Sept. 5, following the orders of President Trump. Discussions surrounding DACA have polarized the nation, with many arguing that the approximately 800,000 individuals currently utilizing the programs (often referred to as “Dreamers”) are functioning and contributing members of society who should be allowed to live in the country that they have come to call home.
Cruz agrees with this sentiment, noting, “Personally I have a cousin that’s under DACA…fortunately no one in the [Latin American] club is affected, but there are people out there who are just trying to get an education.”
Cruz hopes that events like the Fiesta will draw attention to the difficulties facing the Hispanic community under the current administration, and encourage people to act upon them.
For anyone looking to get more involved, the Latin American Club meets weekly on Mondays at 7 p.m. in the Office of Multicultural Student Life. The office is open to the public and is located in Room 312 on the third floor of the Memorial Union.
Due to a printing error this article was not published correctly in the print edition.