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Para La Cultura: Ithaca Celebrates Latinx Heritage Month

Latin American food, music, and dance filled Ithaca’s Community School of  Music and Arts on Oct. 5. People from all different backgrounds joined together for the Aguakinesis: First Friday Gallery Opening, one of 26 events that ¡Cultura! Ithaca hosts for Latinx Heritage Month.

First music performance of the night at the Community School of Music and Arts (Photo by Emily Chavez)

Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 is dedicated to recognizing – and experiencing – Hispanic and Latino American culture.

The United States Census Bureau in 2017 reported 7.1% of Ithaca’s population is Hispanic or Latino. Community organizations such as ¡Cultura! Ithaca hold events to highlight the Latinx demographic.

Carolina Osorio Gil, founder of ¡Cultura! Ithaca, said “That [Latinx Heritage Month] is when we have the opportunity to kinda spotlight or showcase our Latinx heritage connecting the communities.”

Ithaca, being home to Ithaca College and Cornell University, attracts students from across the U.S. and around the world. For senior Joe Anthony Cruz, coming to Ithaca College was a sharp contrast to his home city of Austin, Texas where he said the “the minority is the majority.”

Ithaca College senior Joe Anthony Cruz interns for ¡Cultura! Ithaca (Photo by Emily Chavez)

“It was hard to find that identity, especially because for I think myself and the way I was raised in my Mexican household, it was very much family was so central to who I was and community was very important,” said Cruz.

Cruz said ¡Cultura! Ithaca feels like a family for him and through this organization he can empower younger generations to get involved in art-based educational experiences.

Osorio Gil was inspired to start this organization about 15 years ago,with the help of  her class she was teaching at the time called, Teatro Pequeño(Theatre for young children). She noticed in her class, geared for children ages 2-6, that there were not many Latino students enrolled. This led to her interest in organizing Latinx events in Ithaca.

Friday’s event was an illustration of the broader picture ¡Cultura! Ithaca is trying to communicate. Aguakinesis: First Friday Gallery Opening, a multinational, multidisciplinary performance and installation project focusing on our relationship with water. These art projects involved individuals from the Seneca Nation, Colombia, México, Ecuador, Venezuela as well as Cornell and Ithaca communities.

Aguakinesis is an interactive art piece by an artist from Rochester, NY (Photo by Emily Chavez)

¡Cultura! Ithaca also offers students from both Cornell University and Ithaca College the opportunity to intern with the program. Julia Pagan, a Cornell senior, said she joined ¡Cultura! Ithaca as an intern because she wanted to be more involved in the Latino community.

“We went through all of this insertion into what it is to be Latino in Ithaca, which is all of these things and all of these events that happen here in Ithaca,” said Pagan.

Pagan added that she particularly enjoys organizing political events that revolve around Latinx issues.

“Right now, in this political atmosphere, we can’t really stay silent about Latino issues,” she said, referencing controversial topics such as immigration, discrimination and Puerto Rican colonization.

For Pagan, Latinx Heritage Month is an opportunity not only to share her culture, but also to start a community conversation about these topics.

“We celebrate our independence during Latinx Heritage Month and also get to know the history of other cultures…that I might have not known before this month,” said Pagan.

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