Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrations Continue to Teach Islanders the Importance of Culture

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Determined to celebrate a safe, yet socially distant Hispanic Heritage Month, the Island University switched to a virtual format for most of its events this year. From Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, various key campus wide events celebrated Hispanic culture and offered a chance for learning, enrichment, and prizes.

Held virtually via a livestream from the Performing Arts Center, this year’s kickoff included a spirited presentation by Amanda Marquez, Professional Assistant Professor of First-Year Seminar.

In her comments, Marquez shared the history of the South Texas/Border Initiative, a body of legislation that was launched in 1989 as an effort to enhance the scope and quality of higher education institutions and programs along the Texas-Mexico border. Nine institutions were part of the initiative, including Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (then known as Corpus Christi State University).

A proud alumna herself, Marquez said the campus community must utilize a race-conscious lens to foster a hospitable campus environment by affirming the races, ethnicities, languages, and cultural experiences of Latinx and other minoritized students. 

“To best serve our students as a Hispanic Serving Institution, we must mindfully reckon with the fact that generations of individuals were denied access to equitable schooling opportunities, resources and social mobility. We have an obligation to learn that history, to educate the public of that complex living history, and to use it to shape and inform the decisions we make as an institution as educators and as citizens of South Texas,” Marquez said. “We must move beyond the food, fun, and fiesta that has so commonly characterized Latinx communities and cultures and as the only contributions that we have made to American history and to American culture.”

Hispanic Heritage Month featured 12 events. Here are a few of the highlights: 

Plática con Las Muralistas

On Sept. 26, Plática con Las Muralistas, or Talk with the Muralists, was hosted via Zoom. Three Island University alumnae – Monica Marie Garcia, Sandra Gonzalez, and Mayra Zamora – guided visitors through their world of art and culture. Each Muralista also discussed her aesthetic and inspiration while showing visitors their work.

Andrea Montalvo-Hamid, Professional Assistant Professor of English, coordinator for the celebration, and moderator for the event, noted in her comments: “As someone born and raised in this city, it’s really important to me to feature people in our community who are making a difference and not only are they making a difference but you can see their impact all around the city. If you’ve been to campus and you walk into the University Center where the ring statue is, you will see their mural on the wall.”

On Oct. 8, the Islander Cultural Alliance celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month by hosting a game near and dear to the hearts of many Hispanic households, Loteria. Similar to bingo, players receive a board with many little tiles on it depicting various people or things, such as “el sol,” or “la luna” and callers announce these tiles. Prizes included popular favorites like Apple Airpods, Echo Spot, air fryers, and an Instant Pot.

 “Loteria was amazing this year! The students were excited to participate in an in-person event and students who won were very excited to receive prizes,” Dr. Amanda Drum, Executive Director of Student Engagement, said. “In addition to the game, we got the students up and dancing (in place due to distancing requirements) to the Macarena and other tunes. Everyone had a great time and can’t wait to do it again.”

Hispanic Poetry Reading

On Oct. 13, Hispanic Poetry Reading was held online via Zoom. Dr. Javier Villarreal, recently retired Professor of Spanish at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and Juan M. Perez a Mexican-American poet of indigenous decent and the author of “Another Menudo Sunday (2007) and “Sex, Lies, and Chupacabras” (2015), led the event, reciting poetry both in English and Spanish. Their poetry reflected the experience of Hispanic-Americans and the unique aspects of the culture. 

Villarreal read a series of haikus that were dedicated to his late mother who died in 2008. Perez, the current poet laureate of Corpus Christi 2019-2021, read a poem about the late Tejano legend Selena Quintanilla called “Songs of Her Life” as well as selections from his book “Screw the Wall.”

Cooking with Vianney Rodriguez

One of the best ways to the heart of a culture is through its food. On Oct. 15, food blogger and author Vianney Rodriguez invited participants to partake in a Hispanic culinary experience via Zoom. She discussed her love of food and gave viewers a step-by-step demonstration on how to cook Classic Slow Cooker Margarita Fajitas. This recipe was from her new book “The Tex-Mex Slow Cooker,” which participants had an opportunity to win.

 “My favorite part in what I do is that I get to share the recipes that I enjoy; I get to share a little bit of culture and history of my family. I’m first-generation Mexican-American and first-generation Texan so we don’t take that lightly. I’m very big on being Tejana and being who I am,” Rodriguez, a regular contributor to Southern Living and Parade Magazine, said during the demo.

Montalvo-Hamid said she was happy that the celebration was successful despite the circumstances.

“We will certainly take what we learned this year into consideration when planning events for Hispanic Heritage Month 2021,” she said. “I have experience teaching online, but hosting events in a virtual format is very different. I feel confident moving forward in this new format, although we hope to have a few face-to-face events next year with social distancing measures in place.”