Students Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

This fall, a dance, speakers, and an open mic night highlighted the community’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Each year from September 15 to October 15, the United States observes Hispanic Heritage Month to honor the heritage, culture, and accomplishments of American citizens with Spanish and Latin American ancestry. Several important dates related to Hispanic heritage land within the month: On September 15, 1821, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua became independent; Mexico’s and Chile’s independence days are September 16 and 18, respectively; and Día de la Raza, more commonly referred to as Columbus Day,  is  on October 12. In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson  first declared the celebration of a Hispanic Heritage Week, but it was lengthened to a month by President Ronald Reagan on August 17, 1988. 

De Colores, the school’s affinity group for Latinx and Hispanic-identifying students, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion organized the school’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. For the whole month, De Colores has displayed the flags of all the Latin American countries in front of the Dining Hall with background information about each country represented. The club also hosted a joint open mic night with the Black and Hispanic Student Association (BaHSA). Richie Mamam Nbiba ’23, a head of BaHSA, said, “During the open mic night, students shared pieces about a variety of aspects of Spanish culture, Latin American immigration, inner-city Hispanic culture, and overall Hispanic identity. Performers also shared a variety of different mediums of art, including poetry and monologues.” 

Additionally, De Colores invited DJ A+ to host the second annual Hispanic Heritage Month dance. At Main Circle, students enjoyed chips and salsa, Latin music, and glow-in-the-dark dancing. Suleyka Alonzo ’22, co-head of De Colores, said, “We hosted the dance because a lot of the time [society] only focuses on issues surrounding social identities, and I think it’s important to also acknowledge the fun and richness of the culture, like the music.” 

On Wednesday, October 6, the Diversity & Inclusion Office invited Mr. Steven Tejada to perform an excerpt from his one-man show, “Boogie Down Journeys,” to students in Elfers Hall. Mr. Tejada, now an educator, writer, and speaker, dropped out of his local public high school and transferred into the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, an independent school in New York. He graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in psychology and sociology, after which he worked on Wall Street as a management analyst. Since then, he has become the sole actor and producer of his show, performed for numerous communities and organizations, and has remained involved in multiple ventures regarding the education of economically disadvantaged students. He also serves as the head of school at the Maret School in Washington, D.C.

“Boogie Down Journeys” is a collection of monologues and reflections on Mr. Tejada’s experience as a Hispanic person. Mr. Tejada performed an excerpt focused on his two favorite characters from the show–a young boy from the South Bronx, who is leaving his community to attend university in Connecticut, and his childhood friend. In the show he described his experience and struggles with using education to improve his life. 

Mr. Yassine Talhoui, director of diversity and inclusion, said, “We picked Steven Tejada as part of our program because of his gift of being able to reach an incredibly broad audience. He is funny, engaging, and speaks to experiences many of us can relate to. He is a true change agent, who has made a real difference in the independent school world for many years.” Kwaku Agyapong ’22, added, “Mr. Tejada made a powerful point that there are many talented, low-income kids who have no access to opportunities that will help them realize their full potential. He emphasized that we should be grateful for the opportunities we are given. That really impacted me.”

As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close, students will continue to celebrate Hispanic culture. Alonzo said, “De Colores is hosting a fundraiser next week. We will be selling horchata and working with a a family struggling to pay hospital bills, as well as an organization that helps undocumented immigrants in the nearby community.” 

There are several more opportunities for the Hotchkiss population to continue supporting the Hispanic community.