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A Look Back at UNC's Latinx Heritage Month Celebrations

Latinx art, culture, language, and history took center stage fostering discussions and conversations around Latinx heritage during UNC’s Latinx Heritage Month.  

Latinx art, culture, language, and history took center stage fostering discussions and conversations around Latinx heritage during UNC’s Latinx Heritage Month.   

We wanted to make sure we were celebrating everyone who identified as Latinx, but also all those people who may hold different identities but may come from Latin American countries,” said Rudy Vargas, interim codirector of the César Chávez Cultural Center and coordinator for the DREAMER engagement program and Undocumented Student Services (now located in the César Chávez Cultural Center).  

“We were very excited to bring our keynote speaker, Alan Pelaez Lopez, because they will be talking about what it is like to live in a time where people are consistently being told you need to be acting a specific way to be Latinx. They identify as Afro-indigenous and so they want to share their experiences,” Vargas said. “We want to make sure that we're also celebrating the cultures and backgrounds of other people who may not identify as just Latino or Latina.” 

Hosted by the César Chávez Cultural Center and co-sponsored with the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center and Undocumented Student Services, lauded Afro-Indigenous poet Pelaez Lopez shared the complexities associated with Latinidad and multiple intersecting identities. Lopez’s visit also gave students opportunities to meet and talk with them in small groups.

Vargas said that Pelaez Lopez’s visit was one of a number of highlights during the month. Nearly 200 attendees enjoyed the event’s kickoff celebration at the César Chávez Cultural Center on September 17.  

“We had a really nice group of folkloric dancers and they were all really young children, and so I think that was one of the highlights. Also, having all the flags of all the Latin American countries was really powerful,” he said. 

Attendees also enjoyed food ranging from paletas (Mexican popsicles) to food from Venezuela, Mexico and Argentina.  

Another highlight was highly regarded Chicano Muralist Leo Tanguma’s exhibit at the Campus Commons, which will continue through November 30. His artwork over the past 30 years has chronicled and depicted the struggles of oppressed peoples as they strive for dignity, justice, self-determination and human rights.  

Many students and alumni are familiar with his mural “The Life and Times of Dr. Martin Candelaria” in the north stairway of Candelaria Hall, which depicts the building’s namesake and Spanish professor Martin Candelaria. Tanguma also gave an artist’s talk – “A Presentation and Conversation with Leo Tanguma: Chicano Artist” – that gave attendees insight and understanding about his artwork.  

On Sept. 16, UNC's Chicana/o and Latinx Studies Program partnered with University Libraries to present the exhibit El Movimiento: The Chicano Movement in Northern Colorado, which immerses visitors in the urgency, passion and vitality of one of Colorado's most important social movements, El Movimiento. In the 1960s and 1970s, Chicano activists in Colorado fought to end discrimination, secure rights and gain political and social power through education, culture and the arts. Community advisors from across the state created El Movimiento in collaboration with History Colorado staff.  

On the Sept. 22, the El Movimiento Panel Conversation – led by Jose Calderon, founder of Apostles for Justice and Al Frente de LuchaJay Alire, community activist; and Lupe Briseño, founder of the National Floral Workers Organization – gave attendees an opportunity to hear from some of the most prominent leaders of the Chicano movement in northern Colorado. Located at Michener Library, the El Movimiento exhibit is free, open to the public, and runs through December 15. 

 Additional links and resources: 

César Chávez Cultural Center (new home to the Undocumented Student Services office) 

Leo Tanguma Opening Reception photos

“The Life and Times of Dr. Martin Candelaria” for more information about the Leo Tanguma mural in Candelaria 

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