UHV students recognize Hispanic Heritage Month

Gabriella Canales By Gabriella Canales

Sept. 23, 2017 at 5:51 p.m.
Updated Sept. 24, 2017 at 6 a.m.

Jonathan Banuelos, 22, left, and Christina Cruz-Martinez, 21, pose for a photo together  during University of Houston-Victoria's Hispanic Heritage Celebration Baile.

Jonathan Banuelos, 22, left, and Christina Cruz-Martinez, 21, pose for a photo together during University of Houston-Victoria's Hispanic Heritage Celebration Baile.   Olivia Vanni for The Victoria Advocate

Celeste Navarro took a deep breath before taking the stage at Jaguar Hall.

Wearing a traditional Mexican costume from the Campeche region of Mexico, the Stroman Middle School eighth-grader knew how important this dance would be.

"It's awesome," Celeste, 13, said. "I am representing something important."

More than 80 University of Houston-Victoria students watched Thursday as Ballet Folklorico performers in white lace dresses adorned with red and yellow flowers stomped beige heels in time to traditional Mexican rhythms.

The university's Hispanic Heritage Baile, or dance, celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Attendees were treated to nachos, salsa and Mexican candy. They were also given an opportunity to dance before the performances began.

JoAnn Benavente, diversity chair for the Jaguar Activities Board, works to bring students out of their dorm rooms and into a world of different cultures.

"I make sure every culture is accounted for," Benavente, 20, said.

Along with the Jaguar Activities Board, the event was hosted in conjunction with the university's Hispanic Student Association, said Madeline Colungo, club vice president.

"We want to put our voices out there," Colungo, 19, said.

Although Hurricane Harvey pushed back the date, the show would go on, she said.

Hispanic Heritage Month is important, Colungo said.

"A majority of Hispanics only know about their culture, we know they need to gain even deeper knowledge," she said.

Recognizing all cultures is equally important, she said.

"We open our arms to everyone," she said.

The need for diverse literature has shifted to people's awareness, said Diana Lopez, associate professor of English.

Of the 35,000 books published, less than 5 percent are about Latinos, Lopez said. Of the 5 percent, about 1.9 percent are written by Latinos.

Although Latinos are reflected in small percentages, that number is increasing, she said.

Students who read books relevant to their culture tend to perform better, Lopez said.

Older students can read Mexican-American Literature: A Portable Anthology by Dagoberto Gilb and Ricardo Angel Gilb for an introduction into the culture.

Younger readers can look into the authors Matthew de la Pena and Guadalupe Garcia McCall or read any books that received the Pura Belpre Award.

Adding additional instruction into a lesson that would otherwise not be in the curriculum is a benefit, she said.

Another benefit is that students are exposed to cultures other than their own, she said.

"A month dedicated to awareness makes people stop," Lopez said. "There is a desire to put things together."


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