Keynote speaker Dr. Lori Flores (left) and Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. (right) in conversation after the Hispanic Heritage Month opening ceremony. SKYLER GILBERT/THE STATESMAN

The Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month by hosting its 27th annual opening ceremony titled “Esta Es Nuestra Historia,” which translates to “This is
Our Story.”

Hispanic Heritage Month is observed in the United States from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, but will be celebrated at Stony Brook University from Oct. 5 until Nov. 2. It is a time where individuals celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and
South America.

“The month is a nice time to specifically call out and celebrate people and events and be a reminder to everyone how much Latino culture is a part of America culture,” said Dorothy Corbett, senior adviser for the Educational Opportunity Program and event
committee member.

The committee was in charge of ordering the food, securing a venue and organizing speakers. Some senior members who have been around since the event’s inception in 1989 were in attendance.

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This year’s event took place in the Student Activities Center Ballroom A on Oct. 5. It began just before 1 p.m. at the Academic Mall’s water fountain with a flag procession. The celebration featured flags from countries such as Colombia, Dominican Republic, Cuba and El Salvador. Led by Stony Brook University Athletic Bands Director Chris Parks, Ph.D., and members of the drum line, the flags were carried around between the Administration Building and Melville Library. They then proceeded toward the SAC.

“I encourage you to share, explore and learn more about the rich cultural, political and historical perspectives and the social and economic impact of Latinos,” President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said. “By increasing our awareness, highlighting our commonalities and promoting understanding, we can further appreciate the contributions that Latinos make within the university community and within our society.”

Many people, both Hispanic and non-Hispanic, came out to support the event leaving the room with few empty seats.

“[I came] to get to know the community,” Yacine Diop, a junior biology major who is Senegalese, said. “When you know more about their culture you get to know more about them.”

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Organizations such as the Latin American Student Organization (LASO), Phi Iota Alpha, Omega Phi Beta and Lambda Theta Alpha were present at the event.

The keynote speaker, Lori Flores, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of history at Stony Brook as well as a Yale graduate and author. She was awarded Best History Book of 2016 by the International Latino Book Awards organization for her book titled “Grounds for Dreaming: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the California Farmworker Movement.”

She was born into a working-class Mexican-American family, and her parents expected her to attend community college after high school, not an Ivy League school. Nevertheless, she applied to Yale University and was accepted.

“The moment I told my father I had been accepted into college, I was shocked to see that he was not proud of me,” Flores said. “He seemed angry. It was not until later that he told me he was in fact proud of me, and was just afraid his first daughter was going to be out
all by herself.”

This year’s First Year Reading, a book that all freshmen are assigned to read for their First Year Seminar class, fits into this month of celebration. The book, titled “The Book of Unknown Americans,” tells the stories of Latin Americans who came to America and the different ways they adjusted to their new country. The novel’s Hispanic-American author Cristina Henriquez will be coming to campus on Oct. 19 to talk about her novel and
personal experiences.

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Other departments are hosting their own events to honor Hispanic heritage throughout the month. For example, the Staller Center had a concert with the Havana Cuba All-Stars
on Oct. 8.

“I think that the purpose of this program is to learn to appreciate minority cultures not just in the U.S.A., but all over the world,” Starr Smith, a freshman mathematics major, said. “I grew up in a school that was primarily white, and there were Hispanic [students], but not that many. It was not until I got to Stony Brook that I was exposed to many different groups of
amazing people.”

Flores continued her speech acknowledging the advancements of Latinos in the U.S through economic contributions and in areas such as sports, politics and entertainment. Despite these contributions, she said that there is still more to be done to celebrate and honor Hispanics in the United States, especially in areas like education, where history books still overlook or cut out information on important Hispanic figures.

“These kinds of programs, these kinds of textbooks, these kinds of classes, they help people become more educated about their past, about our present world,” Flores said. “And they perhaps also become prouder of who they are, of their backgrounds and where they come from.”

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