Biola celebrates Latino Heritage Month with help of Unidos

Biola celebrates Latino Heritage Month for the first time.

Biola+University+celebrates+Latino+Heritage+Month+at+a+Family+Dinner+on+September+21%2C+2011.+With+various+events+throughout+the+month+of+October%2C+Biola+hopes+to+build+a+stronger+community%2C+celebrating+Latino+Heritage+Month+university-wide+for+the+first+time.+%7C+Job+Ang%2FTHE+CHIMES

Mike Villa

Biola University celebrates Latino Heritage Month at a “Family Dinner” on September 21, 2011. With various events throughout the month of October, Biola hopes to build a stronger community, celebrating Latino Heritage Month university-wide for the first time. | Job Ang/THE CHIMES

Claire Callaway, Writer

Biola University celebrates Latino Heritage Month at a “Family Dinner” on September 21, 2011. With various events throughout the month of October, Biola hopes to build a stronger community, celebrating Latino Heritage Month university-wide for the first time. | Job Ang/THE CHIMES

For the first time in its history, Biola is celebrating Latino Heritage Month university-wide with festivities that kicked off last Thursday and will continue into mid October.

There are approximately 600 students with Latino heritage in Biola’s undergraduate program, according to the Biola registrar, and is ranked sixth in the nation for the number of Latinos graduating with undergraduate degrees in theology or religious vocations.

The source of energy for planning the events has come from president Barry Corey and Pete Menjares, associate provost for diversity leadership, said sophomore Erika Sanchez, the president of the on-campus Latino heritage club, Unidos.

“We spent the summer planning them and with their help it has come a long way,” Sanchez said. “They were a real source of encouragement.”

Unidos helps sponsor on-campus events

Events are being sponsored by both Biola and Unidos, and will continue until the end of Latino Heritage Month on Oct. 15. Already, there has been Cocina Latina, an off-campus dinner that took place at the home of the director of commuter life Katie Tuttle as well as a special Reconciliation Chapel on September 15th, led by speaker Jonathan Calvillo. Chapels will continue to support Latino Heritage Month with a special series entitled “Perspectives in Latino Faith” to be held Sept. 28 to 30.

“This year the Unidos leadership is really hands-on; they want to build leadership and share culture,” said Maria Contto, a 2002 graduate of Biola and the faculty advisor of Unidos.

In years past, the multi-ethnic programs have been alone in celebrating the Latino Heritage Month.

Events meant to reflect God in Latino culture

Contto said that the purpose of theses events is partly to see God reflected through the Latino culture.

“Different cultures allow us to experience God in different ways,” Contto said.

Sanchez feels that the goal of the celebration is to facilitate community among Biola students. Raised in a Latino family in Santa Ana, Calif., Sanchez’s first experience as a minority member occurred when she entered private high school.

“Through that experience, God taught me that his kingdom is made of people of all races,” Sanchez said. “The reason I’m participating in Unidos is because I love to cultivate community. A lot of Latinos don’t have that.”

Contto had her own experience in being shaped by her Latino heritage.

“[When I came to Biola] I missed my family, I missed my home, normal college stuff,” Sanchez said. “But not having the family atmosphere that I was used to made me miss home a little bit more. It was really cool to exchange stories about home with Latino friends.”

Because, as Contto says, family life is very important in Latino culture, the events planned for Latino Heritage Month will try to foster a familial atmosphere. On Sept. 21, the Caf will be hosting a family dinner in the Banquet Room at 6 p.m. Also, on Oct. 14 there will be a special Latino worship night where youth from area churches, as well as Biola students, will gather to worship God together.

In keeping with the Year of the Arts at Biola, there will also be an exhibition of Latino art in Crowell Hall, including an area where people can go and paint, according to Sanchez.

“Overall, these events are very community and worship-oriented,” Sanchez said.

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