Although Latinos may seem to be underrepresented at Quinnipiac, they are the largest minority group on campus, according to Diane Ariza, associate vice president for academic affairs and chief diversity officer. Since Sept. 15, Latino Heritage Month has allowed the Quinnipiac community to embrace its diverse population with events sponsored by the Latino Cultural Society and the Office of Multicultural and Global Education.
Latino Heritage Month has offered opportunities for students of any nationality to learn about a culture that may have more impact on their lives than originally thought, according to Stephen Balkaran, an instructor in the department of philosophy and political science.
Ariza said that most people do not know how large the Latino population is on campus.
“In the fall of ’09, we had 111 incoming [Latino] students, and this fall we had 160, and that number will continue to grow,” Ariza said.
Balkaran recently had his article “What would America be like without Hispanics” published online. Now nationally syndicated, the article discusses Latino influence in the reshaping of America.
“What mainstream Americans have failed to realize is that Hispanics have played and will continue to play a crucial role in our nation,” Balkaran wrote in his article.
Even though Balkaran did not write this article specifically referring to Latinos in the Quinnipiac community, he said that we are all affected by Latino culture.
“Diversity is so stressed on you on campus, and I think America 20 or 25 years from now is going to be so Hispanic,” Balkaran said.
According to Balkaran, articles like his that exposes the realities of Hispanic culture should be topics of discussion in classrooms.
“As the country becomes more and more Hispanic, America shouldn’t be scared of change,” he said. “By embracing change, we need to educate ourselves.”
Latino Heritage Month’s series of events ended Oct. 14 with the Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration, in which students learned about the traditional holiday and were offered festive desserts. With previous events like movie screenings and plays, Michelle Lopez, president of the Latino Cultural Society, said this year’s Latino Heritage Month has been the best one yet.
“There was no event that didn’t have at least 15 people attend, which is great for us and everyone seemed to have a great time,” Lopez said.
The most popular of the events was eighth annual Copacabana Night, when 130 students were given salsa lessons, according to Lopez.
Ariza said that Copacabana Night has always been a popular event held by the Latino Cultural Society.
“Many students love to dance and will do anything to get lessons,” Ariza said.
With 15 to 130 attendees at each event, Ariza said the film screenings seemed to have the lowest turnouts.
Though these events are held and sponsored by the Latino Cultural Society, Ariza said she encourages students of all communities to attend these celebratory occasions.
“It’s about all communities learning about what it means to be Latino or Latina in this country,” Ariza said.
As the Hispanic population grows both nationally and in the Quinnipiac community, Lopez said she feels that Latino Heritage Month brought joy and knowledge to many different communities.
“I definitely feel as though Hispanic students have a large presence on campus,” Lopez said.
Though Quinnipiac may not seem to be diverse as compared to other schools, Ariza said the numbers of students from underrepresented communities have grown significantly.
“We’ve turned it around, and people are noticing,” Ariza said.