SRU celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with variety of events


Students participate in the Day of the dead fashion show

The Student Organization for Latinos, Hispanics and Allies at Slippery Rock University will host its fifth-annual Day of the Dead Fashion Show, Oct. 29. The event is part of series of events celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.

Sept. 9, 2019

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Hispanic and Latino cultures are regularly celebrated at Slippery Rock University, but a new event this year will extend beyond SRU's campus and into the local community. SRU is collaborating with North Country Brewing Company and the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to host a Hispanic Fiesta, 5-10 p.m., Sept. 19, at NCBC's canning facility, 111 Arrowhead Drive in Slippery Rock.

SRU's Hispanic Latino Cultural Series Committee and the Student Organization for Latinos, Hispanics and Allies are partnering with NCBC and PMAHCC to host the Hispanic Fiesta, which is free and open to the public. The event will feature food, music, drinks and activities that showcase a variety of Hispanic and Latino cultures. Proceeds will support the PMAHCC scholarship fund, which provides financial aid for post-secondary school students from western Pennsylvania who are of Hispanic descent.

"There are not a lot of Hispanic people here, but there are a lot of stereotypes," said Ana Maria Caula, professor of modern languages and cultures, who has severed on the board of PMAHCC's Foundation Education Fund for the last three years. "We want to celebrate our diversity and this is a perfect place because we have a local business showing their support for Hispanic people and everyone in our community can support them and learn about their cultures."

The Hispanic Fiesta is part of a series of events at SRU to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is observed by a U.S. Presidential proclamation, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The month-long celebration coincides with the anniversaries of eight Hispanic or Latin American countries' independence that are celebrated during the time span.

SRU groups helping to organize Hispanic Heritage Month events include the HLCSC, SOL, the President's Commission for Racial and Ethnic Diversity and the Office for Inclusive Excellence. Founded in 2003, the HLCSC, chaired by Roger Solano, professor of business, is made up of faculty and staff who organize programming at SRU that celebrates Hispanic and Latino cultures and educates the campus community, such as appearances by guest musicians and dancers.

"Being able to celebrate Hispanic and Latino cultures in a place like Slippery Rock is a gift because the events are right here in our community," said Christine Pease-Hernandez, assistant professor of communication, a member of both the HLCSC and PCRED. "This is a wonderful opportunity to share and learn about the culture without having to travel far to experience something like this. I always tell my students that they should embrace the events that we offer because it helps them to grow, takes them out of their comfort zones and allows them to try new things."

There are more than 220 SRU students who identify as Hispanic or Latino. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 7.6% of Pennsylvanians and 1.6% of Butler County residents identify as Hispanic or Latino. Despite the figures, Caula said those numbers could be higher because many Hispanic or Latino people are reluctant to self-disclose and be considered different, adding that some can be undistinguishable from other races based on their appearance.

"It's important to realize we have people in our own backyard with Latino and Hispanic heritage and it's important that we listen to their stories and be exposed to their experiences," Pease-Hernandez said.

Among the features of the Hispanic Fiesta will be a dance performance by SRU's Afro-Colombian Dance Ensemble; games that are popular in Latin American countries, like dominoes in Cuba; and NCBC Chef Josh Scheer serving up Latin American and Spanish cuisine, including arepas, tostones and tres leches cake. Drinks will include mojitos, papelón con limón and sangria. Organizers want to avoid food and garments that are often used by Americans to represent Hispanic cultures, such as tacos and sombreros, opting instead to share cultural aspects and items that are not as widely familiar.

PMHASS will also co-sponsor a Hispanic Heritage Gala, 6 p.m., Sept. 28, at the Westin Convention Center in Pittsburgh. The gala includes dinner, keynote speakers, dancing and casino games to benefit the PMAHCC Foundation Education Fund. Tickets information is available at

Other Hispanic Heritage Month events include:

The Pulsera Project, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Sept, 10, 12 and 17, Smith Student Center lobby: Members of SOL will be selling handwoven bracelets created by artists from Nicaragua and Guatemala through a fair-trade organization called The Pulsera Project with proceeds benefiting the artists and their communities.

Hispanic Fiesta, 6-8 p.m., Sept. 25, SSC Ballroom: The event will include light refreshments; dancing by SRU's Afro-Colombian Dance Ensemble; salsa dancing lessons by local instructor Luz Zenaida Aquino; music by Gavas Latin Beat, a Latin American music group from Pittsburgh; a Day of the Dead photo booth; crafts, including Mexican tissue paper flowers; and more. The event is free and open to the community.

"Looking Beyond the Wall: A Photographic Cartography of Writers Along the U.S.-Mexico Border," 12:30-1:30 p.m., Oct. 17, Room 111, Spotts World Cultures Building: The HLCSC and SRU's Modern Languages and Cultures Department will host photographer Alejandro Meter for this presentation. Meter is a professor of Latin American literature at the University of San Diego. His visual project tells the story of the rich cultural traditions of artists living in the border region with a goal to dispel stereotypes of violence and crime that are depicted in news media related to the region.

Day of the Dead Fashion Show, 8 p.m., Oct. 29, in the SCC Ballroom: SOL will host its fifth annual event with various performances, a fashion show and authentic Mexican cuisine. The Day of the Dead, also known as Día de Muertos, is a Mexican holiday, celebrated with sugar skull costumes and makeup, that originated with family and friends gathering to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died.

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