Opinion: NYU must do more for Hispanic Heritage Month

In the month-long celebration of Latine people and heritage, is the university doing enough to celebrate the students and faculty that fall under this umbrella?


Susan Behrends Valenzuela

Hispanic Heritage Month spans from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. NYU must commemorate the holiday for Latinx students and faculty. (Staff Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

By Mariana Trimble, Contributing Writer

Hispanic Heritage Month is underway, spanning from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Its awkward placement is not accidental, as many Latin American countries celebrate their independence between these dates. During the holiday, however, one has to wonder if the celebration of Hispanic and Latine people at NYU has been enough, and whether the university truly cares about representation. 

Since the holiday began, the university has held some events for Latine students and faculty. José Pagán, a department chair at the NYU School of Global Public Health, published a statement highlighting research on the Latin American community. The SPS Center for Applied Liberal Arts also showed their appreciation for Hispanic Heritage Month, but their directory mostly pointed to events happening outside of the university. NYU Eats is showcasing Hispanic and Latine chefs and reimagining traditional food from Latin American countries, and Liberal Studies is hosting events like Spanish-speaking socials and discussion panels. 

However, this short list seems to constitute the majority of the university-led events for the month. Student organizations like ¡Viva Perú! and Latinos Unidos Con Honor y Amistad are centered around uplifting and connecting with Latine students, and have been holding events. The Latinx Project at NYU is also holding a myriad of events, and the organization works to support Latine artists and scholars. 

While clubs and NYU-affiliated organizations are doing their part in supporting Hispanic and Latine students, the university itself should take more initiative in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. 

As a Mexican American student myself, I have certainly noticed the lack of acknowledgment from the university. I have struggled to find other people like me, as I come from a white community in Ohio, and I was excited to finally meet Latine students who had similar experiences as me: people who ate the same “weird” snacks and candies I did, spoke the same second language, and experienced the same culture that I felt the most comfort in. Picture my surprise when I saw the institution that I had expected to be welcoming fall silent on one of the most important acknowledgments of our community. 

NYU has one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation, yet the university seems to struggle in representing those students. Gaby Sotelo, a former writer for NYU Local, criticized the university for its lackluster attempt to represent its Hispanic and Latine students in an article published during Hispanic Heritage Month in 2019. She applauded the clubs that do hold events for Latine students, but remarked that the university should be more involved with the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. 

“The problem does not come from the lack of clubs,” Sotelo wrote. “It is the lack of events that NYU as a university should be hosting to celebrate this month.

Sotelo hits on an important note when she mentions the struggle Hispanic and Latine students face when trying to find students to relate to and celebrate their culture with. This sentiment resonates with me and other students, and the noticeable silence from the university does little to alleviate our anxieties.

There are no banners or flyers posted around campus to celebrate the month. NYU’s Twitter account has not acknowledged Hispanic Heritage Month, whereas CUNY posted a tweet promoting campus events celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Considering that 16% of the NYU student body is Hispanic, this is a glaring omission that should be corrected. 

As a resident sophomore who misses Mexican food, it’s difficult to find authentic stores and restaurants to enjoy. NYU could follow CUNY’s lead by publicizing authentic Latine businesses for our student body during this important month.

However the community decides to celebrate, Hispanic Heritage Month is a point of pride for the Latine community. Throughout the discussions of the community’s varying identities and hardships, we can come together and revel in the beauty of our cultures. Although we all celebrate in our own ways, support from a university that boasts its diversity wouldn’t hurt.

Contact Mariana Trimble at [email protected]