Hipanic Heritage Month can be a celebration of life during difficult times

Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions that people of Latin American origin have made to the United States. This year, celebrations may have to be socially distant, but don’t have to be less joyful.

UAA will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15-Oct. 15. Celebrations usually include in-person gatherings with free food, music and featured speakers. One such speaker is renowned poet, Carlos Andrés Gómez, who performed at UAA during last year’s celebration.

There may be no in-person big event this year, but Isabel Azpilcueta Balsimelli, the President of the UAA Latino Student Union, or LSU, says that there are many ways to revel in Latin culture during the pandemic.

“Students can celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by educating themselves about our culture in different ways. Research a traditional dish from a Hispanic country you’re interested in and learn how to cook it [and] even better, share it with close family or friends. Watch a movie by a Hispanic director. Go to the Hispanic market in town and try a new candy or snack. No matter how small it might seem, just opening yourself to a new perspective can go a long way,” Balsimelli said.

The UAA Latino Student Union at the 2019 Campus Kick-Off give out information to students. Photo by Christina Swayney.

There will be an online watch party on Oct. 6 where students can enjoy a virtual party to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. More details will be available soon on the UAA Hispanic Heritage Month webpage. In the meantime, there are plenty of films that celebrate Latin culture. The UAA Latino Student Union has a few cinema recommendations to enjoy at home.

Like Water for Chocolate,” is a magical realism movie released in 1992. It is an award-winning film that was adapted from the novel of the same name [and] written by Laura Esquivel. The film centers around ‘Tita,’ a woman experiencing the joys and sorrows of the early 1900s life in Northern Mexico.

Coco,” is a family-friendly animated film released in 2017. It features original music celebrating Mexican culture, as it’s protagonist, 12-year-old Miguel, is transported to the Land of the Dead on an adventure.

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Pan’s Labyrinth,” is a dark fantasy film released in 2006 and written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro. It takes place in 1944 Spain and follows Ofelia on a fantastical and otherworldly journey as she encounters odd creatures and lands.

LSU also has book recommendations including ‘The Alchemist, “Chronicles of a Death Foretold” and “Like Water for Chocolate.”

Latin Americans enrich not only art and culture in the United States, but also the economy. Maria Arroyo moved to Anchorage from Los Angeles a few years ago. She has worked in the hospitality industry with several jobs simultaneously since moving and is now starting her own business. She launched Ria Arroyo Cosmetics this year.

“Making money as a young Latin entrepreneur means a lot, especially coming from a country that’s not so rich, in my case Mexico. The business I started was to motivate anyone and everyone that it is possible to start any business no matter where you come from,” Arroyo said.

Maria Arroyo started her business with very little and was motivated to be a young entrepreneur from her Latin upbringing. Photo courtesy of Maria Arroyo.

There were over 59 million Hispanics in the U.S. in 2017 according to The New American Economy. 39.2 million were born here and the rest are U.S. immigrants. The gross domestic product, or GDP, produced by all Latinos in the United States was $2.13 trillion in 2015 according to a 2017 Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative research report that was sponsored by Stanford Business School and The Latino Business Action Network.

The culinary map of America has also been altered and enlivened with new taste destinations since the early 1900s with venues like Columbia Restaurant in Florida, which opened in 1905 and El Charro Café in Arizona, which opened in 1922. Anchorage has its own Latin Restaurants, such as Tequila 61°, Taco King and Mochileros Food Truck.

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