Students can’t mask joy for Latino Heritage Month

Newspaper strips and homemade paste covered the hands and clothes of students, as well as the floor of a Living/Learning Center classroom, when members of Alianza Latina hosted an evening of Veijigante mask-making. The event was one of many that will be held during UVM’s Latino Heritage Month, taking place from Sept. 30 to Oct. 21, which gives all students an opportunity to engage in activities and events that showcase Latino culture, according to the UVM Women’s Center Program and Events webpage. The Puerto Rican masks, traditionally made with dried-out gourds, were made from balloons and papier-mâché. They were then painted the following week in a vibrant array of colors and will serve as centerpieces for the Noche De Cultura celebration, Alianza Latina’s biggest event, which takes place Oct. 17. Students who participated in the mask-making said they came away with broadened horizons and paint-stained clothes, happy to have been given an opportunity to take part in a Latino tradition. “It was a fun way to get into another culture,” first year Shelby Mathews said. Latino Heritage Month is not just for students but faculty as well. This was true for Spanish professor John Waldron, who spoke to students at the mask-making activity about the history and culture behind the Veijigante masks. Waldron was asked to speak by Alianza Latina President Yolanda Pimentel. “I e-mailed the professor over the summer, and here he is,” Pimental said. Waldren was able to provide some knowledge for the students, and bring the history of the mask to the event. For Waldron, these are exactly the types of events that help to foster cross-cultural understanding on campus. “I think there could be more incorporation instead of [the other cultures] being completely isolated,” he said. But his interest in Latino Heritage Month lies not only in his profession. When asked by students why he focused his studies on Puerto Rico, he said, “Love. I met the woman who would soon be my wife in Puerto Rico.” Waldren’s personal approach to the project allowed students to have a more intimate experience and to learn about the subject Waldren focuses on in his academic studies. “A lot of what I write about is what I presented here,” he said. This activity will be followed by many more during Latino Heritage Month, including events such as “Bring your homework night” on Oct. 4, “Learn how to dance” on Oct. 15 and “Noche De Cultura” on Oct. 17.