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Colorado Mesa University students, faculty and staff shared collective learning experiences, festivities and food in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month September 15 – October 15. This celebration of the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America — began as a one-week observance established by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 and was expanded to 30 days by President Ronald Regan in 1988.  

CMU’s Latino Student Alliance (LSA) partnered with Sodexo to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month with Tasty Thursday in The Caf, which included cuisine from Latino countries, festive decorations, live music performed by Latina student Lucero Fuentes and a Spanish trabalenguas (tongue twister) competition. 

The celebration continued on the Dominguez Hall terrace with karaoke, games, drinks and snacks. Members of the Western Colorado Latino Chamber of Commerce joined in teaching and dancing the Payaso de Rodeo, a popular Latino dance and playing El Balero, a traditional children’s toy/game.  

“It is amazing to embrace our beautiful culture with Latino and non-Latino students here at CMU,” said Latino Student Alliance Coordinator Guadalupe “Lupita” Santiago. “We have the opportunity to share and educate others on all the wonderful aspects of our culture such as dances, music, foods, and games. We had the pleasure of hosting multiple events that showcase our culture and they had great turnouts and were enjoyed by a variety of students.” 

The October Cultural Café, hosted by Tomlinson Library and the International Student Programs honored Hispanic Heritage Month with a presentation from Cultural Inclusion Council Director Yulisa "Yuli" Saenz on her home country, Mexico. Saenz began with an entertaining overview of Mexican history that was peppered with jokes and drew laughs from the crowd.  

Showing how Mexico’s borders were redrawn after various wars she said, “See! If it was still the 1840s, even GJ would be in Mexico!” Showing historical images that explained the country’s caste system, which was based on combinations of races and hair texture, Saenz said “I like to joke that my family is 50 shades of brown.” This segued into a personal storytelling segment of Saenz’s presentation when she toured the audience through the neighborhood where she grew up using Google Earth — pointing out her childhood home, her elementary school, her favorite street food vendor and her brother’s friends sitting on the curb. 

Saenz was especially excited to talk about Mexican music and cuisine. To highlight different genres, Saenz played clips of her favorite mariachi song and her grandmother’s favorite Tarahumara song. Sodexo prepared posole with cabbage, mango salsa, arroz con leche and lime agua fresca to pair with the presentation. Saenz said red or black mole is her favorite traditional dish. She also said she enjoys chapulines, which is an ancestral Aztec dish with cooked and seasoned crickets in a purple corn tortilla topped with green salsa. “It tastes like chicken, I promise you!” Saenz said. Saenz also shared details about the way her family observes Dia Los Muertes and said that LSA will have a celebration on campus November 1.  

“LSA has done amazing things this semester and they always extend their meetings and events to everyone, Latina/o or not,” said CMU Coordinator of Inclusivity & Mentor Specialist Ta’Lor Jackson. “LSA is one of our largest student alliances in the Cultural Inclusion Council (CIC) and learn so much from this group!” 

For the month of November, CIC, Native American Student Alliance (NASA), Tomlinson Library and International Student Programs will feature programming in honor of Native American Heritage Month.  

Saenz will be featured in Making Mavericks Season 3 on the Maverick Network this Fall.


Written by Hannah Odneal