Hispanic Heritage Month Sparks Discussions

Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 marked Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States. This month celebrated the unique cultures of Hispanic and Latino citizens in this country. Black Hills State University celebrated through a series of discussions sparked by educators and students alike.

Dr. Joe Valades is the Director of the Student Success Center and encourages these discussions. He is working towards building up the student organization, La MASA, or The Multicultural Association for Student Activities.

“La MASA,” Valades explained, “in Spanish refers to a corn meal that is used in such dishes like hot tamales. But it also means masses, groups of people, so in this respect it refers to the mass of people, which is very fitting. The purpose is to provide a forum for activities and discussion on Hispanic/Latino/Latin American populations, cultures, and other topics, and also to serve as an advocate for Hispanic/Latino students to further their educational opportunities.”

Why celebrate Hispanic and Latino heritage in the US? Valades further explained: “The Hispanics have exceeded African Americans now as the largest ethnic minority in the United States. There’s no end in sight in terms of it stopping or slowing down in terms of increasing population, and we’ll see a lot of things happening in regards to immigration bills and legislation and policy making. So I think it’s just an exciting time to see what’s happening.”

Valades hosted a presentation honoring Latino veterans on Oct. 15. Previous presentations and forums have covered topics like immigration and ethnic identity. He said, he and the other hosts of these discussions hope to showcase some foods of Hispanic and Latino culture as well.

Dr. Valades encourages students of all backgrounds to come to his office for more information about this student organization. La MASA is open to students of all backgrounds, and Valades extends a special invitation to Hispanic and Latino students here at Black Hills State to stop by and discuss scholarship opportunities especially available to them.

“We want to get discussion groups going,” he said, “be viewing some films, whether they’re documentary or feature films, and also be initiating some book club discussions as well.”