Celebration concludes Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month


Darius Sinha, Staff Writer

Colorful hats, dresses, dancing, and music brought vibrancy to the Upper School (US) campus on October 15 during the annual Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month assembly.

The school has hosted the assembly for over 20 years, with the exception of the 2020-2021 school year, in acknowledgment of the over 60 million people of Latinx and Hispanic heritage in the U.S.

According to a study done by the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Global Education office during the 2018-2019 school year, 4 percent of the student body identifies as Latinx or Hispanic.

“It’s important to bring yearly awareness about this minority, which is becoming a larger proportion of the population in the U.S.,” US Spanish Department Coordinator and an organizer of the event Rosario Sánchez Gómez said. “My goal always is to have fun and to do it with the whole community and to make it memorable and fun and involved so that the student body will remember the learning experience.”

To celebrate the history surrounding Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month and acknowledge those in the school’s community who identify as Latinx and/ or Hispanic, Ms. Sánchez Gómez invited Veronica Robles’ all-female mariachi band to perform. The band performed traditional dances and music from countries all around Latin America, including Brazil, Peru, and Colombia.

Ms. Sánchez Gómez first spoke about the history of Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month. Then, surrounded by traditional clothing from multiple Latin American countries, Ms. Robles began to dance to traditional Latin-American music played by her band. The assembly ended with students volunteering to try on the dresses and hats and learn parts of a dance, which they performed together with cheering and rhythmic clapping from the audience.

In light of the pandemic, one of the major goals while planning the assembly was bringing people together. Library Co-Director Camille Hoven, Ms. Sánchez Gómez, US Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Practitioner Maria Graciela Alcid, US Theater Director Ross MacDonald, Educational Support Associate Amanda Lewis, Corrie Waters, Michelle Barrocas (both ’22), and Kelly Diaz ’24 planned the assembly. Ms. Hoven said the planning was a great “opportunity to connect” with other faculty, members of student affinity groups, and the Student Diversity Steering Committee.

“Now that we’re back in person, and we know the student groups are interested in collaborating to celebrate meaningful assemblies, we really wanted to involve students,” Ms. Hoven said. “It was really fun to get in a room with them and start to brainstorm and try to plan out the assembly.”

The committee met four times to discuss the assembly, the chalkboard display outside the library, how to center Hispanic and Latinx heritage in the future, and each department’s work on the celebration, like the Almy Library’s interviews with Hispanic and Latinx community members and Spanish classes’ projects on Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month.

Ms. Sánchez Gómez suggested inviting Ms. Robles after seeing her perform in 2018, and the student organizers appreciated the interactive aspect of the performance, Kelly said.

“We thought the mariachi band was a good idea because everyone likes music; music brings people, especially teenagers, together. We saw [Robles] as a great representation of that.”

Kelly, who identifies with Latinx and Hispanic heritage, said she enjoyed the energy the student body had while celebrating her culture.

“I appreciated the student body’s support and how fun and willing they were to be part of that celebration because it’s definitely not something I’ve celebrated at school before.”

Sanya Goenka ’22 said engaging in the assembly was a highlight of her day.

“My favorite moment was probably the dancing that we got to do,” she said. “The traditional clothing isn’t something I wear, so I looked really different, but it was a great time.”

Lily Coughlan ’24 said experiencing the assembly as a second-year Spanish student helped her understand the culture more.

“I’m really glad they brought someone in so that we could appreciate the culture,” she said. “I know that’s something we try to do in Spanish class, too, but it was really cool to see these traditional dances, up close and personal, and even see people we know participate.”

US Spanish Teacher Gabriela Gonzenbach said she saw parallels between the assembly’s element of education and her own classes.

“Veronica Robles shared a remarkable performance,” she said. “She captured so much, and it’s clear that she is a passionate and proud teacher. I was thrilled that she managed to incorporate so much into such a short amount of time—so much more than just one Latin American country! The fact that I teach Spanish means that every day I have the opportunity to include culture into my classes. [For example,] when I teach the imperfect [tense], I share my own experiences being Ecuadorian and Latin American in this country.”

US Spanish Teacher Margot Caso said she took advantage of Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month to integrate more cultural learning into the class.

“I was more intentional in my classes about sharing poetry, music, and stories about influential Latinos.”

Looking ahead, Ms. Alcid said, the school is placing emphasis on continuing to bring everyone together as a community and celebrate all that makes us different.

“It was really something special to have more in-person time to connect and to collaborate in community. Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month kickstarted our collective journey of how we will explore and celebrate the richness and complexities of our identities as a community in the Upper School.”