Plenty of festivities are planned for Hispanic Heritage Month
Delta Digital News Service
Sept. 11, 2023
By Caroline Cherry Averitt | Contributor
JONESBORO, Ark. – At 6-months-old, Juanita Acosta moved with her family from Colombia to Arkansas. Growing up, people often mistook her for being Mexican. Since then, she embraced diversity and an understanding of different cultures and feels proud of her Hispanic heritage.
Currently Acosta serves as the project manager and community navigator supervisor at El Centro Hispano, a nonprofit organization serving the Hispanic community of Northeast Arkansas.
Acosta has been working with El Centro Hispano to organize events for recognition and celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
From Zumba classes and festivals, to parties and vaccination drives, residents of Jonesboro can celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in a variety of different ways. These events not only honor Hispanic heritage, but will also provide a space for anyone to learn about Hispanic cultures.
“Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 and it’s interesting because it’s also around the time of independence for different Latin American countries,” Acosta said.
Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua celebrate independence Sept. 15. Mexico celebrates independence Sept. 16 and Chile celebrates independence Sept. 18.
El Centro Hispano will begin offering Zumba classes Sept. 16 from 9:30-10:30 a.m. at Union Park Pavilion, next to United Way at 407 Union St. The classes will be open to the public.
Acosta said El Centro Hispano saw a need for community and connection, as well as health issues, which sparked the idea for the classes.
Salsa for Scholarships, an event under the NEA Professional Network Committee, will also be held Sept. 16 from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Brickhouse. This event will be $20 per person and feature a live DJ and Latin dancing.
“It’s a good opportunity to go meet other Hispanics in the area,” Acosta said, “and raise funds for scholarships for students in Northeast Arkansas.”
The Craighead County Jonesboro Library invited El Centro Hispano to do readings and participate in a festival honoring Hispanic Heritage Month.
Claudia Fuentes, the programs coordinator at El Centro Hispano, said each week they will choose a Spanish children’s book to read.
Chrissy Holbrook, the public relations and marketing manager at the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library, said this will be the first time the library will be hosting a Hispanic Heritage Month Festival.
Previously, the library held the Arts & Crafts fair twice a year, but they decided to focus on certain themes.
“In May, we did it for the Asian Pacific (American Heritage Month). So, for September, we wanted to do the Hispanic Heritage Month,” Holbrook said.
The festival will be Sept. 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Local food and craft vendors will set up booths and there will be Hispanic storytime in English and Spanish.
El Centro Hispano is partnering with Southern Pharmacy to provide COVID-19 vaccines at the festival.
“We’ve seen that sometimes with minority communities, they can be kind of scared to go to a pharmacy and be unsure– like not knowing if they have health insurance or not sure if they’re going to be treated right– stuff like that. So, we always try to find ways to create accessibility,” Acosta said.
In addition to celebrations through El Centro Hispano, organizations on the campus of Arkansas State University also plan to host events to honor Hispanic Heritage Month.
The Multicultural Center, Hermana y Hermano and Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, Incorporada will be partnering together to host El Grito. The event will include food, games and dancing.
Heidy Bulbarela-Hernandez, a junior graphic design major from Stuttgart, Arkansas, serves as the co-social and community service chair for SIA, the Latin-based sorority on A-State campus.
“(El Grito) will be a sort of party in Centennial (Hall) and we’re going to do sort of like everything– some games, we plan to have some dancers and dance instructors and music,” Bulbarela-Hernandez said.
The event will be Sept. 15 from 6-8 p.m. at Centennial Hall in the Reng Student Union.
The sorority will also host SIA Week Sept. 25-29.
“We’ll be having a bonfire Sept. 26 for Meeting the SIAs and then (Sept. 27) is Roses with Teacher Supplies, which is our community service. Then (Sept. 28) is Cantaritos which is an educational event where we will be painting plant pots. So, it’s just a part of a bonding activity,” Bulbarela-Hernandez said.
SIA will host Spanish Around the World Oct. 12 to educate about the language and Spanish-speaking cultures.
“We should be learning Spanish and about the Spanish language in different countries– Spain, Portugal, in Latin America– and how that’s changed over time and how each one is unique in its own,” Bulbarela-Hernandez said.
SIA will be posting more information and updates on their Instagram page.
The Multicultural Center will host a Hispanic Heritage Month party Oct. 12 on the first floor of the Reng Student Union from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be a DJ, food and crafts.
Natan Gomez, a senior biotechnology major from Irapuato, Mexico, serves as president of Hermana y Hermano on A-State campus. The organization provides mentorship for students from all backgrounds.
Hermana y Hermano plans to organize more events for Hispanic Heritage Month. For updates, check out their Instagram page.
Trinity Haynes, the education program coordinator at the Multicultural Center, said she tried to make an effort to ensure the Hispanic population at A-State felt appreciated and celebrated during Hispanic Heritage Month.
“ I know being on a campus where a lot of people don’t look like you. It may not always feel like you’re being appreciated or you’re not being celebrated correctly,” Haynes said. “I really hope from this month, they get out of it that we do appreciate them. We love having them here on campus.”
Carolina Elmore, assistant director of El Centro Hispano, said Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes what the Hispanic community contributes to the culture in the United States.
“That’s what the month is, you know, the Hispanic families living here and how much they have contributed to culture,” Elmore said.
Elmore mentioned sports, history and music as areas of influence from the Hispanic community. Fuentes added food as a major contribution.
“So, I think what makes me proud being a Hispanic is that there are so many things we can bring. You know, we tend to be very happy people. We all were hard workers. We like to do our best,” Acosta said.
Elmore said many people in Northeast Arkansas assume all Hispanics come from Mexico or immigrated illegally, but she wants people to know Hispanics come from diverse backgrounds and many work as professionals in the community.
According to the 2020 US Census, Hispanics account for 8.5% of the population of Arkansas, a 38.1% increase since 2010.
“We’re having more and more people arrive to rural areas like Jonesboro, or like maybe Wynne, areas where you wouldn’t even think of there being Hispanics. So, you have to find a way to incorporate those communities and see how we can all come together to be better people to be better as a whole,” Acosta said.
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NEA looks forward to Hispanic Heritage Month festivities. Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council