Stories, hugs and a multicultural experienced were shared Tuesday night with motivational speaker and social activist Juana Bordas, who embraced VCU’s culture of diversity and the burgeoning hispanic community in Richmond.
The event was held to honor the first week of Hispanic Heritage Month, which started the day before on Sep. 15, and was sponsored by the University Global Education Office, Division of Community Engagement, Division for Inclusive Excellence and the office of Multicultural Affairs.
Working in conjunction with The Sacred Heart Center, a Catholic nonprofit community center in South Richmond, the center’s newest program, the Latino Leadership Institute invited Bordas to speak at both the community center and at VCU.
“How can we build a multicultural country without the story of all its people?” Bordas asked seminar participants. “We celebrate these heritage months, be they Hispanic, African-American, or whatever else, to tell those stories, to be all-inclusive.”
Hispanic Heritage Month was established in 1968 by former president Lyndon B. Johnson to celebrate the culture of one of the most dominant ethnic groups in the western hemisphere.
Running from mid-September to mid-October, the month was chosen to acknowledge the independence days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Chile and Belize. The monthlong observation also celebrates Columbus Day, or Día de la Raza, as it is known throughout Latin America.
There are currently 50.5 million people, or 16 percent of the U.S. population who identify as Hispanic or Latino, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
In Richmond, Hispanics accounted for 6.4 percent of the population last year. The Latino population has significantly increased in the last decade with the ethnic group’s population having grown by 150 percent since 2000.
“Latino is a shared language, history and experience,” Bordas said.
Unlike a racial group, Latino or Hispanic is instead considered an ethnicity or culture, encapsulating a broad mixture of different races, colors, nationalities and religious-beliefs including Anglo, Arabic, Moorish, Jewish, Native American, Mexican, Puerto Rican and many more.
While the numbers of Hispanics are growing in the Richmond area, the concentration of the population in South side is slowly starting to work its way out toward the city.
Paloma Barhaugh-Bordas, VCU Arts Painting and Printmaking professor and daughter of Juana Bordas, moved to the Richmond area in the last year. Not immediately noticing the Hispanic population in Richmond, she says they’re becoming more noticeable and believes they’re establishing themselves as an integral part of the greater Richmond area.
“For months now, I’ve been looking forward to her visit,” Barhaugh-Bordas said. “It gave me an opportunity to meet some Latinos who are really steeped in activism in our community, hopefully they’ll bring some of that to VCU–the last few days have really enriched my life.”
VCU will be sponsoring and hosting several events over the course of Hispanic Heritage Month. Thursday this week, actor Giancarlo Esposito, known for his role as Gustavo Fring in “Breaking Bad” and Buggin’ Out in “Do The Right Thing” will be visiting campus on Thursday Sep. 18.
Other seminars and social events will be hosted during the monthlong celebration, including a seminar on Hispanic Identity on Oct. 2 and a Dia De Los Muertos lottery on Oct. 14 will be sponsored by the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority.