Hispanic Heritage Month Overlooked at MC

Ivan Bohoroquez called the Fuerza Latina meeting into order at exactly noon on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the group’s participation in Hispanic Heritage Month.

The founder and president of Manhattan College’s Latino American pride and community service group detailed the different events they would partake in over the next month including a bilingual mass in the Chapel De La Salle, “Los Dias de los Muertos” and an overnight food packaging project for needy families this Thanksgiving. While these events are interesting and fun, it seems as though there is so much more that the club, whose goal is to promote diversity on campus, could be doing.

Photo by Christian Roodal
A meeting of Fuerza Latina. Photo by Christian Roodal

“We haven’t gotten involved in some of the other events because the other clubs and organizations [on campus] haven’t really reached out to us to come help out,” said Bohoroquez.

Wait? What? Why wouldn’t the other student organizations on campus want to get involved with Fuerza Latina?

“I think that the big problem on campus is that no one really wants to commit and plan big projects on campus,” continued Bohoroquez, who transferred to MC from SUNY Albany, from which he drew the idea for Fuerza Latina.

It seems that students are either scared or don’t have the will to get involved in Hispanic Heritage Month. Bohoroquez cites the belief “that they won’t get any support,” as the root of this fear.

I lean more on the side of apathy.

October is the most grueling month. Between the NFL dawning pink uniforms for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the slew of Domestic Abuse Awareness Month posters on campus and the endless Tumblr posts about Suicide Prevention, students can go so overwhelmed, too busy to care about Hispanic Heritage Month.

Honestly, how are they supposed to care that Sonia Sotamayor is the first Latina woman ever on the US Supreme Court, or that Jose Marti’s poetry and journalism played a key role in America’s involvement in the Spanish American War? Students are bombarded with midterms, sexual abuse presentations and so much more; how can you blame us for getting tired of caring?

It should be noted, though, that this year, Emanuel “Sonny” Ago, the assistant to the director of Student Life, reports a higher attendance rate to the HHM events than in previous years, “which is certainly a good sign.”

“I think the administration is putting in the effort to diversify in a very respectful way and start a conversation about current cultural issues,” said Marcelo Lopez, a student who came to Manhattan College from the Dominican Republic.

He feels as though students have just never been taught to broaden their horizons. That somehow, the Irish and Italian Americans who make up the majority of Manhattan College’s population have been taught that they shouldn’t partake in these discussions.

“A lot of kids are raised in a suburban background where there isn’t a lot of diversity and I find that they think it’s offensive to ask me about my background,” said Lopez, who used to commute from an apartment in the Bronx and is now an RA in Lee Hall.

Maybe he’s right. Maybe this isn’t about apathy but fear.

Let us make a plea: Manhattan College students, we beg you to interact with the wide array of different cultures present on campus. Don’t just get involved in Hispanic Heritage Month; go visit the Muslim Student Association or the Gay Straight Alliance.

Lopez continued, “I want you to ask questions about my culture and I want to ask you about yours.”

Fuerza Latina has grown from five members to about 60 since its formation in May but Bohoroquez says “the goal is to eventually get everyone on campus involved in spreading diversity.”

Maybe October doesn’t have to be so tiring. Maybe a month that throws this many cultural issues at you is as good a reason as any to make an honest effort to widen your cultural scope and understanding of the microcosm that exists on 242nd Street and Broadway.