Fiesta, film screening, dancing and more celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month 2023 at Western

Contact: Erin Flynn
Colorful skulls are laid out on a table for a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.

The first El Grito celebration was held on campus in 2021. This year it will cap off Hispanic Heritage Month on Friday, Oct. 13.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University will celebrate Latino culture and the richness it brings to the campus community with a variety of events during Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Friday, Sept. 15, to Sunday, Oct. 15

"It's a month of celebration," says Noemi Mendez, president of the University's Multicultural Greek Council. "Latino culture is very vibrant. It's full of love and family; it's full of happiness and joy. When I think of my culture, I think of dancing and good food. I think of people coming together and just being one big family, really having that deep connection."

Hispanic Heritage Month was initially observed federally as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968. It was extended to a month in 1988 and has since been celebrated nationwide to recognize the diverse cultures, traditions, histories and contributions of American Latinos.

Western's Latino Student Alliance will kick the month off with a week of events beginning Monday, Sept. 18, that include a bake sale, trivia night, demonstration in support of immigrants and Latin dance lessons.

"I hope that individuals are able to come and feel like they are part of something special," says Joana Zuniga, president of the Latino Student Alliance. "Hispanic Heritage Month is a time where we as people are able to free ourselves from our everyday norms and express ourselves for who we truly are.It is also a way for Hispanics to connect with one another even if we do not have the same background."

The Multicultural Greek Council is partnering with the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) for a Latinx Fiesta to cap off the first full week of Hispanic Heritage Month on Friday, Sept. 22, at the Goldsworth Valley Pond gazebo. There will be food from Fiesta Burrito, a piñata, DJ, bounce house and more. The event will also be supported by the Latinx Employee Association in collaboration with the Office of the Provost.

"Having these kinds of events helps students connect; it's like a home away from home," says Mendez. "We're super excited for the event, and we're hoping it's going to be something really huge and something that everyone can enjoy."

The Latino Student Alliance will cap the month with its annual El Grito celebration, which includes music, food, a fashion show and more. Details are still in the works, but the event is planned for Friday, Oct. 13.


Throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, a variety of other events and observances are planned around campus to shine a light on Latino culture and history. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Seita Scholars Program and King Chávez Parks Visiting Professors Program will bring Ovidili Vasquez, who went from working in the sugarcane fields of Central America to graduating college and becoming a bestselling author, to Sangren Hall for a keynote address and conversation on Wednesday, Sept. 27.

WMU Libraries has compiled a number of online resources and is also creating a Hispanic Heritage Month book display in Waldo Library. It will include book recommendations from members of the Latinx Employee Association

The employee group is also partnering with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of the Provost to organize a special screening of "First Voice Generation," a documentary produced and directed by Western alumna Cynthia Martinez, B.A.'06. The film highlights stories of Latinx students who are part of the TRiO Upward Bound Program and their families. 

The diverse array of events planned for Hispanic Heritage Month fosters belonging and connection among Western's Latinx community, says Zuniga, while also inviting the broader campus community to learn about their culture. "With there being so many Hispanic-based organizations on campus, It is important that we as a University celebrate what makes our campus unique."

"It's a time to celebrate (Latino culture) as students who are becoming future leaders—future lawyers, future doctors, future teachers—can be proud of their culture, wherever they end up, and see that their heritage is being celebrated on campus," Mendez adds. 

She also hopes the events encourage other students to get involved in organizations on campus like the Latino Student Alliance and Multicultural Greek Council. "Our organizations really help grow you as a leader and grow you professionally. You learn a lot of skills; you network with a lot of people. A lot of people in our organizations are leaders, they're changemakers and they're very passionate about things."

Hispanic Heritage Month Events
Sept. 18LSA bake sale11 a.m.Sangren Plaza
Sept. 19Ice cream and trivia night7 p.m.WMU Student Center, Mosaic Room
Sept. 20"I Stand with Immigrants"NoonSangren Plaza
Sept. 21Latin dance7 p.m.WMU Student Center, Room 2207
Sept. 22Latinx Fiesta5 p.m.Goldsworth Valley Pond gazebo
Sept. 27Keynote address: Ovidili Vasquez6 p.m.Sangren Hall, Room 1910
Sept. 28Movie night7 p.m.WMU Student Center, Room 2207
Oct. 7"First Voice Generation" documentary screening3 p.m.WMU Student Center ballroom
Oct. 13El GritoTBATBA

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