How is Stuy Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month?

Hispanic Heritage month is an invitation for everyone to appreciate Hispanic culture, whether you are Hispanic or not.

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By Stefanie Chen

As students stroll around in the hallway, they may notice an increase in brightly colored murals and bulletin boards featuring student-made art and posters. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that these works of art commemorate Hispanic Heritage month, which spans from September 15 to October 15 to celebrate the contributions and achievements of Hispanic cultures from around the world. The observance was first declared by President Bush in 1989, who chose September 15 as the starting date because it coincides with the Independence Days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Stuyvesant is partaking in this national celebration by promoting student inclusivity through various initiatives and encouraging students to learn more about Hispanic culture.

Multiple teachers are making an effort to celebrate Hispanic heritage. Spanish teacher Roseanny Genao had her students compare and contrast the cultures of the U.S. and Mexico by having them observe the two countries’ different ways of celebrating cultural pride. Sophomore and Spanish III student Alexa Seltzer described, “We watched a video of a president in Mexico saying to a huge crowd ‘Viva Mexico’ and we were saying how they had a lot of pride and excitement for the month. And we discussed in America how we don’t do chanting [...] but we celebrate with barbecues and hot dogs.”

Other Spanish classes are doing similar individual classroom celebrations. The ultimate goal of the foriegn language department as a whole is to adorn the fifth floor with information and art related to Hispanic culture. This includes the bulletin board next to the cafeteria, which is covered with beautiful posters of art meant to inform students about the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month.These different infographics display all kinds of aspects of Hispanic culture ranging from politics to food to language. Assistant Principal of World Language, Art, and Music Francesca McAuliffe commented that this was to celebrate Hispanic culture as a whole. “All aspects of a culture affect one another and are of equal importance,” she said in an e-mail interview.

Student-led clubs like The Black Student League (BSL) and Stuyvesant’s Hispanic Students Association (ASPIRA) are also hosting their own events. They are planning a Hispanic Celebration Dinner on October 13 after school in the cafeteria with the hopes of promoting cultural education. BSL president and senior Sukanya Ferguson said, “With fundraisers, dinners, infographics, and announcements, we want students to have the opportunity to educate themselves while also being directed to a safe space within the school.”

Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to represent Stuyvesant’s relatively small Hispanic student body, which Stuyvesant seems to be doing a good job of doing. “I feel included,” remarked sophomore Milo Smulansky, who is Sephardic Jewish.

However, this acknowledgement also includes other Hispanic populations, who may not be typically represented. Smulansky believes there should be more representation of different Hispanic cultures. “There is this mural with all these flags. But the Sephardic Jews don’t have a flag and I don’t think the flag of Spain would really be fitting because Spain didn’t treat the Sephardic Jews well. Acknowledging the less[er known] Hispanic groups as well is important,” he said.

The month is also a chance for students to gain appreciation for Hispanic culture, whether one is Hispanic or not. McAuliffe believes that the purpose of Hispanic Heritage Month is to reconnect with oneself and the world around us. “Speaking with the elders of our families, learning the recipes of our ancestors, being familiar with traditions, visiting our places of origin, and understanding our history is imperative to knowing ourselves as human beings,” she says. “It is equally important to learn about, value, understand and celebrate the cultures of our global citizens and neighbors.”

ASPIRA president and senior Arlette Duran stresses the importance of unity beyond our surface-level differences. “Our culture is what ties us together and makes us a big family,” she says. “For that reason, the celebrations around Hispanic Heritage month have been open to all students regardless of ethnicity.”

Learning about culture also helps prepare students for the real world where cultural awareness becomes more important for socializing. “When you’re in an environment where you’re surrounded by a lot of diversity, [...] you want to be able to meet new people and connect with them on a deeper level,” Seltzer says.

This willingness to learn is another way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month that everyone can take a little time out of their day to do. “Educate yourself. Look into the history, study it. I know people are not going to have the greatest incentive to do it as they might not relate to it entirely, but I think it’s important to learn the history and look at the overlooked groups or parts of history,” Smulansky suggests.

The celebration of our diverse cultures through things like Hispanic Heritage month can help students feel supported in connecting with their cultural roots. Stuyvesant is working toward celebrating identities from all over the world during all months of the year. Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is one step of many to come.