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ALAS’ Latinx Heritage Month Celebrates Cultural Diversity

September 21, 2020

When Jayleen Saucedo sought out Idaho Statesman investigative reporter Nicole Foy, she did it the new-school way.

The junior, who is the president of the College’s Association of Latino Americano Students (ALAS), reached out to Foy via Twitter to invite her to participate in ALAS’s Latinx Heritage Month.

“I thought, ‘I’m just going to go for it and ask,” the Marketing & Digital Media major said. “And she said, of course, I’d love to.”

Foy will join ALAS virtually, via Teams, on September 23 to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on Idaho’s Latinx population. It’s part of a different Heritage Month schedule than was anticipated, but one that is generating excitement among the campus community anyway.

“We’ve never really done something like this before,” Saucedo said. “Everyone is really excited to have a switch-up and have more diverse events as well as more educational events.”

The switch-up is from a traditionally Mexican-centric celebration to a month on campus that embraces a wider view of the College’s Central and South American students.

“It’s a good opportunity to make that perspective better,” said junior Marlon Galvis Aceros, a Biology and Environmental Studies double-major who serves as the club’s vice-president. “To try to give an opportunity to the campus community to explore a bit more and educate themselves a bit more about the Latinx community.”

Latinx Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15. It opened with a Central American Trivia Night and will include future events with Foy, Dr. Elena Bonmati Gonzalvez from the World Languages, Literature, and Culture department, student artists, and a movie night. All of the events can be accessed via the ALAS Teams link here. According to Assistant Dean of Students Arnoldo Hernandez, the club’s advisor, there’s a long history of Heritage Month celebrations on campus, from car shows to food festivals to music and dance performances. But there hasn’t been a celebration in recent years because of the academic calendar. It was simply too difficult to get events set up with the school year starting. This fall, the academic year started a week earlier than usual, giving ALAS a little extra time to put together the events.

“Something we want to emphasize is that we’re not all the same,” Saucedo said. “It’s important to keep in mind that we have a diverse number of countries but also people from those countries. Not every single Latino is the same. Everyone is unique in their own special way.”

Galvis Aceros agreed.

“The difference is very big, we’re very diverse,” he said. “Even within people from the same country. There is a lot of difference that you’ll find.”

To illustrate his point, he told a story of a conversation he had with a couple of American friends who had recently visited Peru, along the western coast of South America.

“They were telling me, ‘we were looking for Hispanic food and we weren’t able to find tacos,’” Galvis Acero, who is a native of Colombia, recalled. “We don’t eat tacos in South America. We don’t really consume tortillas.”

For instance, in Colombia, Galvis Acero says corn-based empanadas are popular. Saucedo, whose family hails from Mexico, helped explain the confusion.

“Idaho has such a big Mexican population that Idaho, in particular, when they see or hear that you’re Latino, they think, ‘oh, you’re Mexican,” she said. “Our cultures are very different. Everything from our food to our dances, even the way that we speak Spanish is not the same.”

It’s part of why ALAS chose to focus on all Central and South American cultures, to celebrate the diversity and show that it is a welcoming community. According to recent data released by the College, the current student body contains students from Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, and Venezuela. Eight of those countries celebrate their national independence days during Latinx Heritage Month.

“We want to make sure their traditions are represented and embraced and we can celebrate them how they would like to see it done,” Saucedo said.

The College of Idaho has a 129-year-old legacy of excellence. The College is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.