BEMIDJI -- Ana Lopez-Aguilera, originally from Spain, didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she moved to the chilly, unfamiliar landscape of Bemidji.
With her role as an assistant Spanish professor at Bemidji State University, she hoped to bring some understanding and appreciation of Hispanic and Latinx heritage to the area.
Along with Bemidji State's department of World Languages and Indigenous Studies, she is hosting several activities through Oct. 15 in celebration of National Hispanic/Latinx Month.
Each year, BSU’s Spanish program organizes events for the BSU community to celebrate the cultures of Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America, in accordance with National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage month. The celebrations are also designed to honor five Central American countries who celebrate their independence in September – Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
With all that has been going on in 2020, Lopez-Aguilera thought another year celebrating Hispanic/Latinx culture through food and salsa dancing would be disingenuous, not giving the full picture. She instead aimed to frame the current social and racial justice movements through the lens of Hispanic and Latinx culture and movements. She also hoped to tie in the month’s relationship to Indigenous cultures.
“Even if we are talking about history from many centuries ago, it is still connected to what is happening now,” she said. “You have this group who is not allowed to show their perspective that they were oppressed four centuries ago, how is that happening now? How is a group that is maybe oppressed by a different one, how is that happening now?”
She hopes these conversations will continue past the month’s end, through different cultural lenses. For example, November is National Native American Heritage Month, and Lopez-Aguilera suggested more lectures and events could continue for this.
This year, virtual events were planned to continue the celebration in the midst of COVID-19. Activities included lectures from Dan Allosso, assistant professor of history, and Vivian Delgado, assistant professor of Indigenous studies, as well as a film discussion.
Delgado’s lecture, which occurred on Sept. 22, discussed the influence that the Spanish language has had in indigenous cultures. Allosso’s lecture, held Sept. 29, “Christopher Columbus: Heroic Discoverer or Genocidal Invader” addressed and explored the controversies surrounding Christopher Columbus.
Lopez-Aguilera and the lecturers drew parallels between issues faced by members of Hispanic or Latinx indigenous communities in the past to issues being faced by marginalized groups in 2020.
A film discussion on the movie “Dolores,” will be held at 4 p.m. on Oct. 6 over Zoom.
“Dolores” centers on labor union activist Dolores Huerta's committed work to organize California farmworkers in alliance with the Chicano Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, Gay liberation and US-based LGBTQ social movements and the late 20th century women's rights movement.
“In that movie, following her, you can see all of the political activism in the 60s and the 70s in the United States,” Lopez-Aguilera said. “The question we should ask is how are these protests happening now different or similar to those happening at that time.”
The movie will be streamed and a discussion on racial and labor justice, led by Dennis Lunt, assistant professor of Philosophy and López-Aguilera, assistant professor of Spanish, will follow.