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Latino Heritage Week celebrates community

Updated: Apr 10, 2019

Valley College held a series of events last week to honor the heritage of its Latinx students.

By Gabriel Arizon, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The Valley Star/Gabriel Arizon

From a workshop to help those in the LGBTQ community to altars remembering deceased loved ones, Valley College hosted a week-long event to celebrate Latinx culture.

Between Oct. 29 and Nov. 1, Valley held Latino Heritage Week, which comprised of several events for all students to participate in and learn more about Latino culture. The week-long event was a collaboration between the ASU, the Chicano Studies Department, MEChA, Student Equity, Mi Comunidad and the LGBTQ+ Club.

“The purpose is to expose our Latino students to their Latin America culture,” said Jose Romo, the ASU commissioner of ethnic and cultural affairs. “It’s important to be proud of your roots and your heritage. Don’t be ashamed of your culture. It’s who you are inside.”

The week kicked off with an LGBTQ+ workshop, which discussed the struggles and myths those in the LGBTQ+ community face, specifically with a Latino theme. The workshop was hosted by Matthew Contreras, who works with The Village Family Services (a non-profit organization that provides aid to those who have suffered from addiction, neglect, violence, homelessness and abuse) and was the former co-president of The Queer Collective, CSUN’s LGBTQ+ club.

As an openly gay Latino male, he discussed his own experience with coming out and tried to help those in a similar situation.

“Using your knowledge in an applicable manner is empowering,” Contreras said. “The more we talk about the issues affecting our communities, the better we can relate to the humanity of someone.”

“I think [Contreras] covered a lot of important topics that need to be talked about in the LGBTQ community and in the Latinx community,” student Daniela Peralta said, who identifies as gender fluid, “since … it really is hard for some of us to come out.”

The next day, the ASU hosted a screening of “Coco,” a Pixar movie that takes great inspiration from the Mexican Dia de Los Muertos holiday, otherwise known as Day of the Dead. Afterwards, attendees stayed around to play a few games of Lotería, a game of chance that shares some similarities to bingo.

On Wednesday, during Halloween, the ASU held their Club Day event in the Student Services Plaza, with tables decorated to celebrate the holiday. Free food was offered later in the day with an accompanying performance by Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles, the world’s first and only LGBTQ+ mariachi.

“I really like these college gigs because I’m a college student, so it’s kind of fun to just be in the same atmosphere and representing my queer, Latinx family,” band member Allãn Vasquez-Lopez said. “Being a queer, Latinx person, representation is very important to me, and so being in this group is just something that’s super big for our community.”

“This is my favorite Club Day,” MEChA treasurer Ki Blanco said. “There’s definitely more energy and a lot more engagement.”

The week ended with the school’s own Dia de los Muertos event, where students made their own altars to commemorate lost loved ones. The altars were displayed in Monarch Hall, with Aztec dancers from the group known as In Tlanextli Tlacopan appearing in special self-made outfits, called regalia, to treat guests with traditional dances.

“I think it’s great that all cultures get to know each other’s cultures and celebrate these important things for us,” Beatriz Aragon said, who helped make an altar to remember her great-grandparents and her cat.

“It’s important for us to celebrate who we are as Valley College students, faculty and staff in any way we can,” Chicano Studies professor Pete Lopez said.

To see video of the Valley Dia de los Muertos event, click here.

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