Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month

Posted by Natasha Martin, JD, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion on Wednesday, September 22, 2021 at 5:52 PM PDT

Storytelling has the power to reconfigure spaces where history has been conveniently erased.

Valeria Luiselli (2019)

Dear Campus Community,

We begin this academic year during a historic week for the university as we celebrate the inauguration of our new President, Eduardo Peñalver, and more fully re-engage as a campus after a consequential 18 months.

Notably, we start this fall quarter in the midst of Hispanic and Latin American (Latinx) Heritage Month, which provides an opportunity to recognize, honor, and celebrate diverse Latinx history, culture, and vast contributions. Initially established as Hispanic Heritage Week by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, it became a month-long celebration in 1988 and was designated for September 15 – October 15. (Read more about the evolution and significance of the mid-month designation here.) To our students, staff, and faculty who make up our Latinx community and their families -- we affirm you and your contributions to our institution and beyond.

The United States is home to a vast diaspora of Latinx cultures, identities, and experiences with ancestral connections to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the many Indigenous Nations and people that preceded. Additionally, a unique quality of Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month is its context around the independence of nations from colonial rule and the transatlantic slave trade. This complex history impacts our current understanding of Latinx identities, but also further illustrates the rich culture of the diaspora, and reminds us that the struggle for freedom is global and interconnected.

Notwithstanding geography, no one word, phrase, or month can encompass the people and experiences that make up this dimension of the American story. The past decade has challenged our pluralistic ideals through the experiences of our undocumented students and others among us so impacted, the tragedies at the country’s southern border, including the separation of children from their families, and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the Latinx communities serving on the front lines of the pandemic, and more.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion acknowledges the different connections to the words “Hispanic,” and, “Latinx.” We aim to affirm and empower our community with resources to inform and promote dialogue. We thank various community partners including, the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture, Campus Ministry, Office of Multicultural Affairs, and faculty and staff members who continue to amplify narratives of the Latinx diaspora and Indigenous lineage, grow knowledge, and foster belonging.

Over this month, we invite you to create space to examine the language of race and ethnicity, complex origin stories, and the reality of lived experiences. Deepening our understanding of Hispanic and Latinx history and culture, expands and complicates the narrative of race, anti-blackness, and the black-white paradigm. Last spring, for example, the University held its first Racial Equity Summit, hosting a conversation with acclaimed scholar Michelle Alexander in which she drew an insightful connection between mass incarceration, crises at the southern border, and U.S. immigration policy. (View this portion of the dialogue in the racial equity summit keynote at 29:00 using the password: ODI) Let’s continue to hold deep curiosity for one another and learn together for the good of our educational mission.

Students, faculty, and staff are invited to take part in community-based events scheduled throughout the month. Please visit the Hispanic-Latinx Heritage Month webpage, for event details, along with resources for self-learning. We’ll continue to update the website. If you or your unit is hosting an event, please email the details to Marquinta Obomanu, the ODI Executive Coordinator at mobomanu@seattleu.edu. Additionally, thanks to MarCom’s partnership, there are Zoom backgrounds you can consider using throughout the month.

We look forward to being in community with you as the academic year unfolds. Stay safe and be well.

In solidarity,

Professor Natasha Martin, J.D.

Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion