Stuyvesant’s First Hispanic Heritage Month Dinner

Stuyvesant’s first dinner celebration for Hispanic Heritage Month featured a variety of events and cultural elements both entertaining and educating attendants on Hispanic culture and history.

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By Hepzibah Srithas

With salads, tres leches, and lively music, Stuyvesant held a dinner on October 13 in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. The event was planned by ASPIRA (Stuyvesant Hispanic Students Association) and the Black Students League (BSL) with the help of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, and the Stuyvesant MOSAIC parent group. It had over 80 attendees, including students, faculty, parents, and alumni.

Since Hispanic students make up only three percent of Stuyvesant’s student population, members of ASPIRA wanted to share Hispanic culture with the rest of the school. “We’ve never had a Hispanic Heritage Month dinner at Stuy, and wanted to make an impact because the population of Hispanics is very small,” senior and president of ASPIRA Arlette Duran said. “Usually for Black History month we do dinners as well, so we decided to do a similar thing for Hispanic Heritage month.”

ASPIRA decided on a dinner to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month because of food’s role in unifying people. “Food is something that brings us together, and meal times are sacred for most families [...] I think a dinner was perfect to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month because it was a way for everyone to bond with each other, even if it was their first time meeting each other,” junior and vice president of ASPIRA Rebecca Lopez said.

The funding for the event mainly came from the Parent Association, along with donations and staff members pitching in. ASPIRA/BSL leaders decided on a place to cater food, and school counselor Audra Parris cooked the remainder of the dishes.

Additionally, the organizers wanted to introduce Stuyvesant to a wide variety of Hispanic food choices for all three courses. Some plates that were offered include different varieties of meats, chips and dips, pastelitos, empanadas, pernil, rice, finger sandwiches, churros, and flan. “I found that there’s very different food choices for different Hispanic cultures,” guidance counselor Sandra Brandan said. “For example, I’m Argentinian. Argentinian food [consists] of steak and potatoes, pasta, and salad, as opposed to Caribbean [food], which would have fried pork, plantains, and yuca.”

The dinner also incorporated a gallery walk that displayed student art and written pieces about Hipanic heritage. To add an educational component, ASPIRA displayed a slideshow discussing influential figures in the Hispanic community such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton, and Sylvia Rivera, a gay liberation and transgender rights activist. A Kahoot trivia-activity followed afterwards to test the audience’s knowledge.

For non-Hispanic students, the event was meant to be an informative session and a time for socialization. “I want [non-Hispanic students] to learn and educate themselves more about our culture and just be more respectful,” Duran said.

Many participants echo this sentiment. “It taught me about how valuable Hispanic Heritage Month was to people of that background, and how to come together and celebrate the month for people who had played a major role in the world from that heritage,” freshman Wade Guo said.

With so many components to the event, organizing the event required plenty of preparation. “Arlette and I worked on slides and with the help of [senior and ASPIRA/BSL events coordinator Samantha Farrow] we decided on a place to cater food from,” Lopez said. “I led our volunteers in decorating the cafeteria and also created a playlist of music to play while everyone was eating.”

To spread word of the event, ASPIRA used social media marketing and put flyers around the school. “We posted a lot on our [Instagram] and reposted it as much as we could, and we also made flyers that were put around,” Duran said. “Our faculty advisers put them in e-mails and sent them out to parents, and Amanda, our [vice president] of BSL, also put it in the weekly e-mail.”

The organizers expressed satisfaction with the turnout of the event, both in terms of attendance and the activities. “I would say it went very well. There was a great turnout and everyone seemed to have really enjoyed themselves,” Lopez said.

Attendees also shared that the event was meaningful and enjoyable especially with the activities planned. “The event was so fun. I didn’t know there would be live music and Kahoots. They definitely went above and beyond,” senior Nandika Mukherjee said.

With the attendance of the event being higher than expected, event planners are hopeful that future events will be as popular. “The turnout was around 80 plus people, which is a lot more than I had expected. Usually our events are pretty small so I was kinda shocked that so many people turned up,” said Duran. “Our next event will be for Black History month, which is in February, and it will be a similar event. We hope the turnout is also great.”