TAMU-CC Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 Incorporates Engaging Mix of Virtual, In-person Events

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The Islander community celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 with fun-filled celebrations, demonstrations, engaging discussions, celebrity panels, and musical performances. From Sept. 15 through Oct. 21, Islanders participated in various in-person, hybrid and virtual campus wide events celebrating and learning about Hispanic culture.

Signature events included the Hispanic Heritage Month Kickoff, Plática con Sew Bonita, Cooking with Vianney Rodriguez and the Mariachi & Folklórico Showcase. In all, Hispanic Heritage Month featured 25 events, which includes activities presented by the Mary and Jeff Bell Library, The Islander Spectrum of Sexuality and Gender, the Islander Cultural Alliance, the Performing Arts Center, The Honors Program, and The Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs.

On Sept. 15, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi set the tone for Hispanic Heritage Month with food, Latin music, and performances by Mariachi de Isla in the University Center, Anchor ballrooms. Surrounded by bright colors and Hispanic decor, Islander students and faculty enjoyed Tex-Mex entrees and buñuelos; many also played Lotería in a bid to win prizes.

The next day, the Island’s Career & Professional Development Center hosted a virtual panel with five Hispanic industry professionals, who shared their career journey with participants. A native of Panama, Lorena Parada-Valdes, Talent Development Coordinator for the Port of Corpus Christi, reflected on her early years in the Latin American country and her decision to come study at a U.S. university on a State Department scholarship when she was 19. Valdes credits her father as a source of tremendous inspiration who taught her that education was an important undertaking.

“He instilled a love of learning in me that continues to happen for me to this day,” said Valdes. “Being a female in a Latin American country, he told me that I will have a career and an education because you will need to be able to stand on your own two feet.”

Elena Flores ’03, ’07 kicked off the first virtual signature event via Zoom on Sept. 29 with a discussion on how she became the founder of her brand, Sew Bonita, what inspired her to create her clothing and accessories, and the importance of supporting local businesses. Andrea Montalvo Hamid, HHM Coordinator and TAMU-CC Professional Assistant Professor of English, moderated the event and asked Flores to provide insight on what it means to be a Hispanic business owner.

“Small business Latinx business owners are changing the narrative with prestigious oils, creams, and more. Mexican products do not equal cheap products,” said Flores. “Everything is hand-picked by me, so you’re actually getting a piece of the love, the life, the culture, that is ingrained in me. You get a taste of the culture, a taste of the representation that matters, and without the support of our customers, we wouldn’t be able to do any of this.”

The Oct. 7 panel discussion, Spotlight on Latina Women: The Stages of Leadership, featured alumna Barbi Leo ’98, KIII TV3 News First Edition co-anchor and Domingo Live co-host; Katia Uriarte, KRIS TV anchor; Victoria Hinojosa, 2021 Miss Texas US; and Savannah Garza, Downtown Management District’s Brand and Social Media Coordinator.

Speaking to a nearly full room as well as to a sizable online audience, panelists engaged in a sometimes frank, often humorous discussion on culture, overcoming adversity, and what it means to be a Hispanic woman in a leadership position. As a young leader who grew up in the Rio Grande Valley, Hinojosa said her experience as a college student helped prepare her for the wider world.   

“When I moved to College Station to attend Texas A&M University, I was hit with a kind of culture shock because I’d never been exposed to that many different cultures,” Hinojosa said. “As Miss Texas USA, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to speak to a lot of elementary school children on the importance of just looking at everybody beside you and saying, ‘You know what – I’m beautiful and she’s beautiful, too.”

On Oct. 14, Islanders logged on to Zoom to watch Vianney Rodriguez, award-winning food blogger and author, share her love of food while making a recipe from her book, “The Tex-Mex Slow Cooker.” Participants engaged in a step-by-step demonstration of how to make her dad’s signature dish, the migas casserole, and a brunch favorite: mango mimosa.

“I wanted to capture my childhood, my family – especially my grandmother – and the dessert section is special to me because it was the last recipe we worked on together before college,” said Rodriguez.

The final event of Hispanic Heritage Month was the Mariachi & Folklórico Showcase, which was held Oct. 22 to celebrate the pageantry and musical stylings of the Mariachi de la Isla and traditional dances of Alcorta’s Compañía de Danza Folklórica. The Performing Arts Center audience reveled in the colorful Mexican decorations, beautiful traditional mariachi music, and folklórico dances.  

Montalvo-Hamid said while the university’s HHM celebration offers the Latinx community an opportunity to share cultural touchstones such as food and music with the wider Islander community, she also said the committee is keen to provide educational opportunities.

“Since Latinx history, along with the histories of other people of color, are not included in the K-12 curriculum, we have a duty as an institution of higher learning to provide a space to have these discussions and ask questions,” Montalvo-Hamid said.