Iowa City holds first ever celebration for National Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic American Heritage Month Celebration

1:00-3:00 pm, Sunday Oct. 3, at the Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center

A dancer performs during Latino Fest at the Ped Mall in Iowa City, Iowa, on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. — Adria Carpenter/Little Village

Iowa City is hosting a celebration of Hispanic American Heritage Month at the Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center on Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. This is the first event of its kind.

“We don’t know what to expect. We’re hoping for a good turnout, a decent turnout, and we’ll continue to offer it next year potentially,” said RaQuishia Harrington, special and underserved populations recreation supervisor.

The event will have crafts and activities that represent various Hispanic countries. Attendees can make worry dolls from Guatemala, Hojalata tin art form Mexico, scratch art of the Nazca Lines from Peru and more.

The event will also have games like lotería, a card game similar to bingo from Mexico. The activities will be led by people who are from those countries and can speak the native languages.

“It’s a way to allow opportunities for people who identify from those origins or countries to be able to highlight and share their traditions, their celebrations and historical facts about them in their own way,” Harrington said.

Hispanic American Heritage Month is celebrated nationwide from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. It began in 1968 under President Lyndon B. Johnson, though at the time it lasted for a week. President Ronald Reagan expanded the celebration to last a full month.

In general, the term Hispanic refers to people who speak Spanish and are from, and/or descended from, Latin American countries or Spain. Latino, by contrast, refers to people from Central and South America as well as the Caribbean.

Several Latin American countries celebrate the anniversary of their independence from European colonists on Sept. 15, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico holds its independence day on Sept. 16, and Chile holds theirs on Sept. 18.

On Oct. 12, many countries celebrate Día de la Raza, a holiday that commemorates the heritage and cultural diversity of Latin America. In the United States, this holiday goes by a different (and controversial) name, Columbus Day.

Mayor Bruce Teague signed a proclamation officially ushering in Hispanic American Heritage Month on Sept. 7.

“Hispanic American Heritage Month is an opportunity to recognize the contributions of Hispanic Americans and to celebrate Hispanic heritage and culture,” Teague said.

“This observance affords special opportunities to become more knowledgeable about Hispanic heritage and to honor the many Hispanics who have contributed to the progress of Iowa City, the state and the nation.”

Sunday’s event is free to the public. Children must have an adult present. All activities will be socially distanced, and face coverings are required.

“This event is for all ages. It’s not just for people who identify as Hispanic American or from any of those countries,” Harrington said. “It’s for all people to celebrate and to be amongst your community and your peers. Everybody will leave with something.”

Iowa City will hold several other events through the month. On Monday, Chilean novelist Lina Meruane, a visiting professor at the University of Iowa, will read her work in Spanish at the Iowa City Public Library from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

“Just like any other cultural event, it is to shed light and to celebrate that. To show that, yeah, we’re all human. We all bring something different. We’re diverse, and that we need to be celebrated,” Harrington said.

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