Latinx Heritage Month Kickoff and Discussion with Alán Peláez López

Afro-Latinx drums beating in the background of a reggaeton song. Smoke rising from the grill, carne asada and veggie burgers cooking to the tempo of the music. Saturday, Sept. 14 was the kickoff event for the annual Latinx Heritage Month (LHM) celebration. 

Latinx Heritage Month, which is recognized nationally as Hispanic Heritage Month, is a celebration of the diversity of Latinx culture, music, food, and identity that lasts from Sept. 15-Oct. 15, though our Swarthmore celebration of LHM will be observed longer than the national holiday. 

The original date for the heritage month was selected because it is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Within the month-long celebration is also the anniversary of Mexico (Sept. 16), Chile (Sept. 18), and Belize’s (Sept. 21) independence. 

The LHM Committee is made up of Angela Reyes ‘22, Chrisbet Cortes-Lopez ‘22, Elizabeth Garcia ‘22, Evelyn Pineda ‘22, and Wilber Dominguez ‘22. The committee has been planning this month out since June and has been working out the logistics over the summer and into this school year.

Reyes stated that the mission of LHM is to have “an opportunity for the Latinx community at Swarthmore and for the community surrounding us to learn and grow together. A time to celebrate Latinx culture yet be critical of Latinidad. A reflection on our space/voice on campus. An exploration of all aspects of the Latinx community with specific focus on identities that are often excluded and bringing their voices to the forefront. And to raise awareness on current issues” surrounding Latinidad.

Following the Kickoff event, the Afro-Latinx poet Alán Peláez López joined us at Swarthmore to hold a Latinx healing circle centered around the critical analysis of Latinidad, especially as it relates to Anti-Blackness. López’s discourse focused on healing trauma by looking at the “X” in Latinx. They explained that the four points of the “X” represent the 4 wounds of Latinidad: the trauma of colonization, Anti-Blackness, femicide, and a lack of grammar to discuss Latinidad. They used the “X” to enter into a critical discourse around what self-care should look like. 

López emphasized that amid our current socio-political turmoil, “what we need is not radical politics or woke culture, we need care.” They believe that as Latinx people, we need to prioritize a toolkit that allows us to recover from inherited and developing trauma in order to “prepare to be good ancestors.” 

When asked about reflections for the event, Sokeyra Francisco ‘22 stated, “This particular event was interesting to me because of the facilitator that was brought. I thought that their identity as an Afro-Indigenous member of the Latinx community positioned them to talk about certain subjects using perspectives not usually centered. I thought their decision to facilitate the keynote in a healing circle, a native practice, was also really cool as well as their contextualizing of some of the issues facing the Latinx community and the exclusionary term Latinidad.” 

Similar reflections were shared by Ariana Soriano ‘20 who said, “I hope we can use the tools that they provided to process and facilitate difficult conversations. I hope we can redirect more of our energy and attention to care and healing to both ourselves and others, especially in the pressure-cooker that Swat is.” when asked what she hopes people take away from the event.

The formal celebration of Latinx History Month is only a small part of what the LHM organizers hope to do this year. There have already been a Latinx Open Mic. Paint Night at Kitao Gallery and a photo shoot. Look forward to special guest Taíni Asili (Nov. 7), Reclaim the Thunder Workshop (Nov. 7), and weekly Thursday film screenings.