Southeast Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month


CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Sept. 17, 2015 – Southeast Missouri State University is celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month now through Oct. 15 with a range of campus-wide events.

“This year, we are planning a number of activities to engage, educate and celebrate members of the Southeast Missouri State University community,” said Sonia Rucker, coordinator of Institutional Equity and Diversity. “This fall, via a number of collaborations and pooling of resources by several departments and groups on campus, we are planning a number of activities in observance of Hispanic Heritage Month.”

She said the month-long observance celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on Sept. 15 and ending on Oct. 15. It was enacted into law on Aug. 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.

Mexico and Chile celebrate one of their independence days Sept. 18. Also, Columbus Day, or El Día de la Raza, which is Oct. 12, falls within this 30-day period.

On Wednesday in the University Center, a bell ringing kicked off the traditional commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month for the University campus. This event was sponsored by the Student Organization of Latinos (SOL) and was designed to celebrate the anniversary of Independence for five Latin American countries including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

“We think it’s important for Southeast Missouri State University to strive to be a community which values diversity and is inclusive of every member of the University community,” Rucker said. “We hope that every office and each department on campus is creating an inclusive environment which is open and engaged with all diverse groups within our community. The Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity has as its overarching goal to enhance the diverse populations of our campus, to build an inclusive community and environment where each individual can feel safe, valued and supported, and to be proactive in fostering a climate which celebrates the cultures which are represented. One of the many ways we are hoping to meet our goals and objectives is by promoting a campus culture which not only values differences, but also respects, appreciates and understands the varying characteristics and experiences of every individual in our community.  We want to develop programs, events, training and educational initiatives which provide opportunities for everyone to be engaged, to develop a deeper understanding and awareness of who is in our community, and to create a higher level of cultural competence. “

Dr. Debbie Lee-DiStefano, professor of foreign languages and middle and secondary education, said, “This month is important for many reasons. First, our region bears the mark of the Spanish conquistadors. From New Madrid to DeSoto, the towns with Spanish names are testaments to the fact that Hispanics were the first Europeans to explore this part of North America. Second, our community is one of agriculture.  Our community owes a debt of gratitude to the migrant workers from Mexico and Central America who have helped make our economy strong and have contributed to the growth of our region. Finally, Southeast has many Hispanic students who need to feel included in the campus community. Recognizing and celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month helps them feel included and demonstrates that Southeast has a vested interested in the welfare, progress and success of all its students.

“The Student Organization of Latinos, and its president Alma Villalobos, has made great strides this year in helping to bring these events to the campus, thanks greatly to the efforts of Sonia Rucker and Valdis Zalite (director of Student Support Services),” Lee-DiStefano said. “Our hope is that more Latinos see Southeast as a choice for the post-secondary studies and that our community takes away a better understanding of and interest in the Latino community nationwide, recognizing that as Americans we all have talents to contribute to help make our society even better.”

Other activities planned during Hispanic Heritage Month at Southeast are:

  • Latino 101: Myths and Misconceptions about Latinos: This panel comprised of faculty, staff and students will share their take on the history, stereotypes, norms and culture being celebrated during Hispanic Heritage Month. Featured panelists are Alma Villalobos, Cecilia Larson, Dr. Jennifer Bengtson, Brayan Rueda Solano and Kennard Callender Fernández. This event will take place at Sadie’s Place, located on the main floor of Kent Library from noon to 1p.m. Sept. 23. 
  • Tres Vidas Core Ensemble: a chamber music theatre work for singing based on the lives of three legendary Latin American Women: Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, Salvadoran peasant activist Rufina Amaya and Argentinean poet Alfonsina Storni. Text is by Marjorie Agosin. The show features a wide stylistic range of music, including popular and folk songs of Mexico, El Salvador and Argentina, vocal and instrumental tangos by Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazzolla and new music written especially for the Core Ensemble by Osvaldo Golijov, Orlando Garcia, Pablo Ortiz and Manuel DeMurga. This event will take place on October 2nd at 7:00 PM at Shuck Recital Hall. Admission is free. 
  • ¡La música! Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with KRCU: Throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, KRCU 90.9/88.9 FM will feature music from several Hispanic and Latino composers. The music will be played during KRCU’s locally produced classical music programs “Caffe Concerto,” heard weekdays from 11 a.m. and “Afternoon Classics,” heard weekdays at 1 p.m.
  • In addition, KRCU will air a special on Sunday, Oct. 4 at 10 a.m. entitled, “Immigration Uncovered: Untold Stories of Moving North”: The United States has always been a beacon for those searching for safe haven, for a place to build a better life. Though the barriers are high and the odds are stacked against them, hundreds of thousands of people leave their homes in Mexico, Honduras and other Central American countries and head for the United States. “Immigration Uncovered: Untold Stories of Moving North”flies close to the ground, bringing personal stories; sometimes uplifting, sometimes heartbreaking, but always surprising — of people crossing borders, encountering new cultures, and building new lives in a new land. 
  • KRCU is also announcing a permanent addition to the programming schedule beginning Friday, Sept. 18 at 8:30 p.m. They will begin airing “Latino” from NPR. “Alt.Latino”introduces listeners to new alternative Latin music, including diverse genres such as Cumbia, Mexican garage rock, Panamanian rap, heavy metal mariachi and many more boundary-blurring sounds from around the world. In addition to music, “Alt.Latino” features interviews and insightful conversation about Latin events and culture. 
  • Hispanic Heritage Month Meet and Greet for Students, Staff and Faculty at Catapult Creative House: Southeast Missouri State University faculty, staff and students are invited to attend a networking event and mixer in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Light snacks will be provided, and dialogue and discussion centered on the rich history related to Hispanic Heritage Month will be encouraged. This event is scheduled for 5-7:30 p.m. Oct. 6 at Catapult Creative House, 612 Broadway, in Cape Girardeau.

Additional reading and material that highlights Hispanic Heritage Month at the national level is available at