UNH Celebrates Latinidad during Hispanic Heritage Month

Mosaico’s 14th Annual Latinx Heritage Dinner

Alexander Rapp, Digital Editor

DURHAM, NH – Students of all backgrounds and ages came together in the Memorial Union Building’s Strafford room for Mosaico’s annual Latinx Heritage Dinner, on Thursday, Sept. 22. The event included varied food from Latinx restaurants, a Samba dance class and an LED light show. 

Mosaico is the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Latinx Student Organization. This year’s event was the 14th annual Latinx Heritage Dinner. The event occurred during National Hispanic Heritage Month which started Sept. 15. and ends Oct. 15. 

According to hispanicheritagemonth.gov, the month aims to “pay tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.” It was a celebration of culture and the accomplishments of Latinx people, aiming to raise cultural awareness amongst students at UNH.  

The sold out dinner was packed with students eagerly waiting their turn to feast on the food. The lineup included rice and beans, black beans, fried plantains, pollo guisado (a braised chicken dish), Brazilian barbeque, churros, fruit, horchata, Jarritos and an assortment of soft drinks.  

Students enjoying Latinx cuisine. Photo by Jonah Fernald.

Santiago Rivera, a graduate student at UNH said, “I just love the food and the people you get to know here.”

After the food, the samba began. The samba lesson was led by Ines from Samba Viva. Organizers and students alike stepped up to learn, although it’s not easy trying to learn samba, the mood was lighthearted and enthusiastic. Afterwards, everyone sat back down to rest and enjoy the grand LED dance show finale put on by LED Fluxion Entertainment.

Ines leading the samba demonstration. (Jonah Fernald)

Joslyn Villavicencio, a fourth year at UNH, is chair of Mosaico. Although currently studying away in Washington D.C., Villavicencio organized the event remotely with help from member groups of the Diversity Support Coalition.  

“One thing that’s been a struggle for Mosaico is people coming to the meetings. The events usually do fine, but if people aren’t coming to the meetings there aren’t many going into executive,” she said. If the organization is not able to fill executive positions, then there will be no meetings, events nor a place to foster community and it will likely disappear. 

She expressed her worries about the lack of attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic, but things have improved this year with many first-year students interested in the organization. 

“People get intimidated by the org as well, and we tried to fix that because everybody is welcome. People see the term Latinx and are afraid because they don’t want to take up space in that environment. The organization is welcome to everybody. I know that people are hesitant about that,” said Villavicencio.

“Some situations I’ve heard of is that they’re mixed; they’re white and Latino for example, and just because of that they don’t identify as Latino. It’s an interesting journey, just trying to figure out how to be like, hey no, we can educate about your culture, and you can learn more about it,” Villavicencio continued.

 Diana Reyes, a graduate student at UNH said, “These events are really great to more of the Latin community.” 

There are many educational opportunities, panels, concerts, and other events put on by government institutions throughout the month to celebrate Hispanic heritage. These included, “Interconnecting Worlds: Weaving Community Narratives, Andean Histories & the Library’s Collections”, “Gallery Talk: The Art of Looking: Lola Álvarez Bravo’s portrait of Frida Kahlo” and “Panel Discussion: Poise, Professionalism, and a Little Luck: The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962.”

UNH is not known for its diverse student body, but the Diversity Support Coalition and its member organizations work year-round to offer events for everyone. There were around 400 to 500 Hispanic or Latinx identifying students at UNH during Fall 2020, according to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. This is around 3% of UNH’s total enrollment.

Jonah Fernald