On Sept. 30, Mesa Community College’s Southern and Dobson campus will be hosting the Hispanic Heritage Festival. Presented by Multicultural/ESL services, the festival will celebrate the vibrant cultures of all 22 of the Hispanic countries with free food, entertainment and displays of Hispanic art, including traditional altars, which are the theme of this year’s festival.
Altars are used in Hispanic cultures to honor and celebrate loved ones and ancestors who have passed away. Pictures of loved ones, their favorite foods, religious candles and flowers are used to decorate the altars, specifically marigolds. It was believed by the ancient Aztecs that the smell of marigolds could wake the spirits of the dead and guide them back to the realm of the living.
Although altars are traditionally used to honor the dead, members of the community and students are invited to submit altars honoring whatever they like. The altars can be one of three styles. They can either be a diorama-like shoebox altar, a wooden shelf-like altar, or the traditional three tiered altar. The altars will be displayed from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 30 along the Clock Tower Lawn. Students and community members can then vote for their favorite altar and first prize in each category will be announced by the president of the college.
“The theme of altars is all inclusive” said Raquel Welch-Perez, an academic advisor for Multicultural and ESL affairs and co-advisor of MEChA, the Chicano student club on campus. “Our festival is using this theme, but you can find altars in Hinduism, Buddhism and certain tribes. We particularly like that aspect.” Rachel explained that by incorporating altars into the Hispanic Heritage Festival, participants will be able to honor their living or dead in their own way while still experiencing a beautiful aspect of Hispanic culture.
With the recent comments made by Donald Trump about the Hispanic people in the United States, events that celebrate Hispanic culture have become all the more vital to preserve a sense of unity in the community.
Mesa Community college is slated to become a Hispanic Serving School, meaning that because of the high percentage of Hispanic students, the school will receive sizeable grants. The grants will not only benefit Hispanic students, but will be used to for the betterments of many facilities on campus, thus beneficial to all.
In past years, Hispanic cultural events and classes have been criticized by school boards. It has even gone so far as to remove Chicano literature and Mexican history courses from high-school and college campuses. Ivette Cerda, a member of MECha, commented on the necessity of celebrations of Hispanic culture the campus. “Events like these allow our culture to be recognized by others. It makes them aware that our traditions, our food, our art, our music all have a role in the community,”
Along with the presentation of altars, there will be a wide variety of activities, entertainment, and food present at the upcoming Festival.
Paletas de Betty, named Best Mexican Paletas by Best of Phoenix, will be there serving up their delicious frozen treats. Additionally, prominent food trucks such as Tia Rosa’s will be providing authentic Hispanic cuisine.
There will be a dance floor beneath the Clock Tower where music from all twenty-two Hispanic countries will be played, including a performance from the local mariachi group, Mariachi Los Caballeros.
High hopes abound for the first annual Hispanic Heritage Festival, especially in such a difficult political climate for the Hispanic community.
“What’s really nice about this is that it’s so much about life,” said Welch- Perez “It puts back the humanity into all these traditions and allows people to realize that we are all human and we are a part of this community. It gives us a chance to be one together.”
The first annual Hispanic Heritage Festival will take place on MCC’s Southern and Dobson campus on Sept. 30 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.