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Latinx Heritage Month: What Is It and How Can You Get Involved?

From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, NC State joins in the national celebration of Latinx Heritage Month. Over the next four weeks, all of campus is invited to take part in a series of events honoring the experiences and impact of the Latin American community on our Wolfpack and this country.

Many of these events are coordinated by Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA), one of four campus community centers that serve to inform, support and expand the cultural horizons of the entire NC State student body.

Below, you’ll find answers to common questions about the month, how you can get involved and how you can stay connected with NC State’s Latinx community.

What is Latinx Heritage Month?

Latinx Heritage Month is the NC State community’s preferred name for National Hispanic Heritage Month; you can find out why below. The celebration was established in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week and expanded to a four-week celebration 20 years later.

Latinx Heritage Month was created to recognize the contributions of the millions of American citizens and residents who trace their heritage back to Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. As of 2020, more than 62 million people in the U.S. share that heritage.

“Latinx Heritage Month is a time that showcases so many different people exchanging, celebrating, and uplifting so many different aspects of Latinidad,” said Rebecca Hernandez, a sophomore from New Jersey. “Whether it be through food, music, clothing, language, etc., the month is an opportunity for Latinx people to show how amazing our culture truly is.”

The date on which the month begins, Sept. 15, is significant in the histories of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, all of which celebrate their national independence on that date. Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their respective independence days on Sept. 16, Sept. 18 and Sept. 21.

How do I get involved?

Latinx Heritage Month starts on Sept. 15 with a public kickoff event in the second-floor lobby of Talley Student Union that unites different organizations on campus with music, giveaways, a photo booth and a piñata.

The month includes a keynote speech by activist and Poole College of Management alumnus Saul Flores. In 2010, when Flores was a junior studying business marketing and graphic design, he walked, hitchhiked or took buses from Ecuador to Charlotte, NC — all to document the long, dangerous journeys many people make to reach the United States.

Why does NC State call it “Latinx” Heritage Month?

“Latinx” is a new, gender-neutral term for people who share Latin American heritage. While the term’s exact origin is unclear, its earliest use was likely by LGBTQ activists of that same heritage. By inserting an “x” into “Latina” and “Latino,” they sought to disrupt the gender binary inherent in Spanish — and raise awareness of marginalized identities within their community.

Not every person of Latin American heritage feels “Latinx” represents them, but languages change to meet the needs of speakers. Many familiar words or phrases were once viewed as clunky, unnecessary or even provocative. Today, “Latinx” appears in every English dictionary and is accepted by the AP Stylebook, which NC State follows.

More importantly, we follow our students and alumni.

Many people may still prefer to call themselves Latina, Latino or something else that specifies their heritage or national origin, such as Mexican American or Venezuelan. Others may use “Hispanic” to signify they are from a Spanish-speaking country or background. We stick to the AP Stylebook by respecting an individual’s preference — while still honoring our community’s use of the general term they feel is most inclusive.

How can I stay involved?

Latinx History Month is just one of the events hosted by MSA each year; Native American Heritage Month is right around the corner in November, and the center offers programming and support all year long. Students can also drop by the African American Cultural Center, the GLBT Center and the Women’s Center.

If you want to connect with Latinx students at NC State, there are a range of student organizations you can join, including:

Graduates of NC State can join the dedicated Latinx Alumni Network led by Andrea Duhon ’05 and Lyndenise Berdecia ’06. In addition to social events, the network offers opportunities to support current students and their academic and professional development, including a new scholarship fund for students who have demonstrated an interest in equity, diversity and justice for the Latinx community.

This post was originally published in NC State News.