On Friday, Sept. 14, dozens of students flooded the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Memorial Plaza at the University of Maine, eager to see the display of the Hispanic Heritage Fiesta. The annual fiesta kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with food, music, friendly faces and a diverse cultural experience.
“This was a great way to get students on campus to come out and learn more about different cultures and experience other people’s cultural perspectives,” fourth-year student, Sam Silverbrand, said. “I have a minor in Spanish, and have also studied abroad, so I really appreciate other countries and think it is so important for people to experience other cultures and traditions.”
The event was hosted by the Office of Multicultural Student Life as well as Commuter & Non-Traditional Student Programs.
“We try to honor all the heritage months and celebrate the cultural diversity we have here on this campus and in this country.” fifth-year student, Kirsten Daley, said.
Daley holds the title of public relations and event coordinator for the Office of Multicultural Student Life, and worked with other students in the club to plan and schedule the event.
Dozens of people on campus came out to the plaza to learn information, talk with other students and club members, listen to music and eat Hispanic-inspired traditional foods.
“We brought in free food from local Mexican restaurants to serve the students and have it set up on tables, and also had great music to listen to. We engaged with people and talked about things that they love about Hispanic and Latino culture, while just hanging out and being together as a community,” Daley said. “It is an incredibly poignant thing to be holding this event in the MLK plaza, which is a space dedicated to a civil rights leader.”
Members of the club and other volunteers arrived early and stayed late to help set up tables, chairs, colorful paper decorations, posters, banners and a microphone stand and speaker for announcements and vibrant, upbeat music.
“I think it’s really important to get a lot of different views and points-of-view that other cultures provide,” fourth-year student, Ben VanKirk, said. “I really got to learn more about Hispanic culture and appreciate all the things that make it special and unique.”
The Office of Multicultural Student Life hosts many other activities throughout the year and works with other on-campus clubs and organizations to plan events and activities that will unite students while also spreading awareness about the world and other countries.
“Working at the office, we plan other fun events such as our ‘Lunch and Learn’ meetings on Wednesdays, where we talk about community issues, cultural topics, films, documentaries, art and other forms of cultural media news,” Daley said. “These events are ways for us to open up a space where people can come and learn about other cultures and ask questions about things that they aren’t familiar with.”
The club also plans activities such as playing games with a focus on Spanish culture with the Caribbean Club and Latin American Student Association. The “Loteria”, a Latin-American game of Bingo held in the Union, helps students brush up on Spanish language basics and learn about the kinds of things that make the language unique while earning prizes and interacting with other students with similar interests.
“These events help students meet and experience other heritage clubs and see what makes our community so diverse and culturally rich,” Daley said. “We are lucky to have all these resources available to us on this campus.”
To learn more about The Office of Multicultural Student Life at the University of Maine, or to find event listings and calendars, please visit https://umaine.edu/multicultural/event/diversity-and-inclusion-training-4/.