Photograph by Christina McCarthy
On October 11, during second and third period, newly formed club Latinos Unidos hosted a assembly for Berkeley High School (BHS) to commemorate the National Hispanic Heritage Month, which spans from September 15 to October 15. Acts included traditional Mariachi singing, Peruvian musicians, spoken word poems by three BHS students, and a short film.
The assembly opened with a short video presentation from Camila Garcia Fausto, a coordinator of the event, that set the context for the assembly. It moved on to a traditional Aztec dance known as Danza Azteca performed by BHS alumnus Leandro Gonzalez. The assembly concluded with Peruvian musicians from the La Peña Cultural Center performing on the Cajón, a Peruvian percussion instrument.
The assembly was officially to honor National Hispanic Heritage month. The National Hispanic History Month started as Hispanic History week under President Lyndon Johnson, then was expanded to thirty days in 1988. David Verdin, one of the Masters of Ceremony (MC), said that the month encompasses many dates important to the Hispanic community. Among these, September 15 is independence day for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua while Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively.
Garcia Frausto said they wanted to highlight the many different cultures of the Latinx Community. “The assembly’s main objective was to inform the BHS community about the diversity within the Chicanx Latinx community and to display the wonderful cultures,” stated Garcia Fausto.
One part of this focus on the diversity comes from the meaning and usage of the word “Hispanic” or “Latino.” According to Garcia Fausto, the word “Hispanic” was popularized by the United States to combine a group of diverse and culturally different peoples. Garcia Fausto added why she felt this occurred. “[The U.S. Government] did this because they were too lazy to distinguish between Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and other Latinx groups,” she said. However, according to Garcia Fausto, the BHS Latinx community and Latinos Unidos in particular, have embraced this unity while at the same time celebrating their different cultures.
Additionally, Mercedes Tamayo, the chairperson of Latinos Unidos, said one of the reasons they put on the assembly was to celebrate in a time when they are being ostracized. “I think it’s important that we celebrate our culture especially in times like this where some people are being shunned because of where they come from,” said Tamayo.
Generally, the feeling at the assembly was positive. At the event, Luis Gonzales, the other MC, stated, “We are here to announce that we are a united front and the raza is now stronger than ever!” Tamayo agreed with a sentiment of positivity. “I am glad to be a part of a community like [BHS] where we are welcomed and even encouraged to have assemblies and events like this one,” Tamayo said.