Indulging in a chance to own their nationalities, UNC’s Cesar Chavez Cultural Center hosted their annual 16 De Septiembre celebration on Friday, as part of National Hispanic Heritage Month.
CCCC Director Patricia Escobar said the holiday, known as Mexican Independence Day, has been celebrated at UNC for almost 30 years, since the center’s establishment. According to Escobar, the day historically served as a catalyst for the Mexican Revolution when Mexico was a Spanish colony.
“The fifteenth, late at night, in the evening, the bells were rung by priest that called Mexicans to action against the Spanish Colonial Period,” Escobar said. “For us, it’s a moment of pride. It’s a celebration of the fact that Mexicans decided to take their destiny in their own hands.”
The CCCC staff was quick to follow suit, providing UNC students and faculty members with both a chicken and cheese enchilada lunch and several performances by some of UNC’s Latino and Latina-based Greek organizations.
Strutting their swagger on the stage, sororities and fraternities such as Sigma Lambda Beta, Pi Lambda Chi and Lambda Theta Nu danced and demonstrated their individual sisterhood and brotherhood chants.
Escobar and the CCCC staff also introduced new Hispanic Studies faculty members, including Assistant Professor Dennis Aguirre, Assistant Professor Enrique Bernales and Department Chair George Thomas.
UNC freshman Yalitza Topete, a CCCC student staff member, explained how the 16 De Septiembre holiday is special to her family, as they are from Mexico.
“It means a lot to their nationality,” Topete said. “As everyone who identifies as Mexican, it means, it’s having pride in that you have your own nation and your own set of people and beliefs.”
In light of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program decline, Escobar used the celebration to remind students of CCCC’s “mi casa es tu casa” mentality.
“Many people have been personally impacted, and they need extra support this semester,” Escobar said. “If you are a student who is personally going through difficulties, we would like you to know that the center is here to support you. We want to allow our students, particularly our Latino students, to know that we value their culture at UNC, that you can be who you are, and come to UNC, and you’re going to be loved and appreciated.”
While the center serves to showcase the Latino community to the rest of campus, any UNC student is welcome at the center, regardless of their nationality.
The center’s next National Hispanic Heritage Month event will be a “Family Visit” at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 24, during Family and Friends Weekend. UNC students and their families are welcome to visit the center and have their questions or concerns addressed.