Webinar kicks off Latinx Heritage Month

Greeting students with an orange colored display portraying illustrated floral images and white ‘Latinx Heritage Month’ lettering, USC kicked off their cultural month celebrations with a virtual event Wednesday. The event served as a preview to the various festivities that will be held throughout the month, featuring an appearance from President Carol Folt. Gabriela Teissier, a Spanish anchor from Univision, served as the emcee for the online broadcast.

The program included participation from various students, faculty and alumni. Many colleges and organizations, including the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and the Latino Alumni Association, promoted or supported the kickoff through social media. Centered around the theme of esperanza, a celebration of Latinx heritage and hope, the event sought to promote positive messaging to Latinx Trojans and marginalized communities. 

“It’s a pleasure to join you as we kick off our celebration of Latinx history and culture,” said Folt as the event began. “This is an invitation for all of us to reflect on the contribution of Latinx Americans and an invitation to come together and look with hope, to the future.”

Folt acknowledged difference makers in the Latinx community, such as University trustee Frank Cruz, who co-founded the nation’s second Spanish-language television network Telemundo. Folt also recognized USC’s efforts to support the Latinx community, including the introduction of its first ever ethnic studies program in 1969, which would become today’s department of American Studies and Ethnicity, and the formation of various Latinx organizations such as the Latinx Chicanx Center for Advocacy and Student Affairs.

Following Folt’s appearance, the event continued with the appearance of more special guests, including Rossier School of Education Dean Pedro Noguera, who spoke about how his Latino and Caribbean heritage were critical to his development as a scholar and person. ​​César Chávez’s granddaughter and alumna Paloma Chávez also made an appearance and spoke about her experience combining her interest in journalism with activism. 

Special video dance performances from Grupo Folklórico de USC and Break on 2 Latin Fusion showcased two different dance genres in the online event. Grupo Folklórico de USC presented a performance using its Sones del Tierra y Mar March 2021 showcase.

“Just seeing how much recognition we got from just this event and the hard work, it’s really nice because a lot goes into the behind-the-scenes of all of these dances,” said Evelyn Marquez, a sophomore majoring in non-governmental organizations and social change and a member of Grupo Folklórico de USC. “What we also try to do with our instructor [is] emphasize the learning about the cultural significance of our dances and the history of them too.”

Break on 2 Latin Fusion performed its 2019 Spring Showcase, in which the group presented its Latin dance style. Co-director Debbie Fagan said she was happy about the opportunity to share the team’s work. 

“We’re really excited that [the organizers] decided to reach out to us,” said Fagan, a senior majoring in political science. “We wanted to make sure that we showcased our Latin heritage. It’s really awesome that we’re able to do that here on campus and feel supported in that.”

The conclusion of the kickoff to Latinx Heritage Month ended with Teissier encouraging students and staff to enjoy the month-long celebration. Martha Escutia, vice president for State Government Relations of USC, was featured in a video segment where she presented the Latinx history behind the founding of Los Angeles. In an interview with the Daily Trojan, Escutia explained she wanted to do something different than talk about her own personal life. 

“It was a great honor, because I was chosen by the USC staff assembly to represent them in doing this,” Escutia said. “That in itself is a great honor to be recognized by your peers, to represent them in such an important thing to kick off Latino heritage month, and so I took it really seriously, and for me, every opportunity is a teachable moment.”

Patricia Alarcón, the relationship manager for USC Educational Partnerships, who served on the subcommittee of diversity, equity and inclusion and oversaw the organizations and assemblies setting up the event, had a positive reception to the webinar.

“From wherever we come from, hope and esperanza, to do our best. To celebrate such an event  — humanity being together and I just paused because I think thwis was a very emotional event in terms of having powerful speakers that were from students, staff, administration, our President,” Alarcón said.