Esther Muñoz Portrait

Esther Muñoz (second year graduate student-geosciences and biogeochemistry) on the HUB-Robeson Center’s green roof on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020. Muñoz serves as the president of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in STEM (SACNAS).

National Hispanic Heritage Month is not celebrated in a uniform manner.

It’s honored in several ways by different groups of Latinx people, according to Victoria Pizzi, a member of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanx and Native Americans in STEM. 

The whole Hispanic community is derived from different countries around the world, with varying cultures and identities that are brought to Penn State, Pizzi (freshman-biology) said. 

“Each country has a different culture they bring with them [to Penn State], and it can be exciting to integrate your culture into your identity,” Pizzi said. “Being able to celebrate my culture is celebrating who I am and where I come from. If I couldn’t celebrate my culture, it would be like losing a part of who I am.”

This year, National Hispanic Heritage Month is taking place from Tuesday, Sep. 15 to Thursday, Oct. 15. 

A traditional Uruguayan celebration for Pizzi’s family involves food, dancing and soccer.  

“My family and I celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by having a barbecue at my grandmother’s house,” Pizzi said. “My mom loves to dance candombe, a traditional dance in Uruguay. We love to express our culture every day by watching Uruguay play soccer games, drinking mate and driving 40 minutes to eat a traditional dish at Uruguayan restaurants.”

Pizzi encourages Penn State students to take part in Penn State’s Hispanic Heritage Month festivities. 

She would “love” to see an annual parade during this month to celebrate Hispanic cultures from around the world on campus, Pizzi said. 

According to Esther Munoz, the president of SACNAS, being Hispanic is “always a celebration.”

Munoz (graduate-geosciences and biogeochemistry) grew up in a “big, loud and loving” Mexican family where she learned about her heritage daily.

“Coming from San Francisco, California, my experience has been completely privileged in the sense of being surrounded by my heritage and history my whole life,” Munoz said. 

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In order for Penn State students to help celebrate the month, Munoz said it’s important for people to learn and understand the history of individuals who are Black, indingenous and people of color. 

If students can’t understand the issues BIPOC endure, then it’s harder to recognize and celebrate such a month, she said. 

But the education systems in America have not always accurately portrayed history, in Munoz’s experience, which makes it harder for students to learn parts of history.

“When our schools don't teach us the truth of how this country has come to be but instead feeds us lies and sugar coats the truth, we have to dig and search to find the actual truth,” Munoz said. 

Munoz noted that it would be beneficial for Penn State students to host big events to talk about the “true history of the people of this land.”

Additionally, students should have more conversations on the complexities of what being a Latin American means, according to Munoz. 

The different slave trades, prohibitions and genocides throughout time has led to the creation of multiple identities throughout the continent, so not all Hispanics come from the same history and culture, she said. 

According to Sofia Johnson, another member of SACNAS who is Nicaraguan, National Hispanic Heritage Month is easy to miss at Penn State. 

But Johnson (graduate-geosciences) said students should increase dialogue and debates as to what the month emcompasses. In order to do this, Penn State should bring in outside experts, Johnson said. 

“There is a low population density of Latinx or Hispanic groups at Penn State,” Johnson said. “So, the best way to commemorate the month is by asking people outside of the community who are experts to have conversations about Hispanic heritage because our selection pool is fairly limited.” 

This will allow for education to increase within the region from people who know Hispanic history, she said.

Additionally, it will lessen the load put on Hispanic people at Penn State, according to Johnson. 

“This will also alleviate the burden of Hispanic Heritage education and recognition [often placed] onto the shoulders of Latinx groups of people.”

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