This month Naropa celebrates Latine Heritage, recognizing the contributions, accomplishments, and liberation of the Latin-American community, while honoring the ancestral voices of resilience. We acknowledge the grief present in the community, and commit to upholding all through presence, love, and a hope that thrives within the vibrancy of every beating, blooming heart. A hope that reminds us of who we are.
I am a first generation Dominican woman born and raised in an impoverished BIPOC neighborhood. My parents taught me the value of hard work and sacrifice for my community, and the importance of loyalty to my ancestors. Though this was not always the case. I know the hard work, sacrifice, dedication and loyalty of my people. Because of that, I recognize intimately the narrative of the Latin community and it has become a part of who I am today.
Latin Americans carry a deeply complex history, one that is both glorified in victory and mourned in its loss. We hold this story in our bones, as keepers of both pain and possibility, carrying within us the memories of war and victory, the liberated and the enslaved. Our culture is a beauty bred out of bloodshed. Some call it survival or syncretism, but I call it alchemy. Forced into extreme situations, my ancestors got creative with what little they had as a means of survival. Artistic, religious, and cultural syncretism is a culture’s means of resisting colonialism, it is spiritual survival.
We have now hit the 500-year mark of colonization, and it’s time to rewrite the script. What does it mean to decolonize as a Latin community? What does it mean to have the slave, the master and genocide all in one body? How does this war manifest in the mind, body and spirit of Latin Americans? What does it mean to return to the roots of love and connection? What does healing look like, individually and as a community?
Growing up I used to be ashamed of my roots, tucking away every aspect of myself that was not up to American standards. I bleached my brown skin, straightened my hair, wore gray eye contacts, and refused to dance bachata, a Dominican dance born out of slavery and the interbreeding of the three races. I hated speaking Spanish, and flattened myself towards perfection so that I would not be seen, so that I could survive. How could I embrace my culture in a world that denies it?
I remember bouncing on my abuelas hips dancing to merengue as she cooked, and the fear of walking down the streets after watching la noticias – another latina missing or murdered. I remember tropical breezes and clear waters and the sound of chickens and laughter in the background of my single mother’s anxiety over not having enough. I remember believing that pain was my destiny, and held onto the hope I saw in my parent’s eyes. A vision that keeps us marching towards a new dawn.
But most of all, I inherited the pain that my ancestors have been running away from. Now, it is my responsibility to go within and radicalize healing.
This is our ancestral responsibility; we are the ones they’ve been praying for. We are at the forefront of this revolution, leading the journey back home. We can do anything, si se puede, reminded by our ancestors’ call of where we came from, who we are, and how we belong together as one Latine people, a community that can be bent but never broken.
Happy Latine Heritage month,
May the ancestors be with you,
—Ayleen Guzman, MCIC Student Diversity Officer and SUN Diversity Liaison, Contemplative Psychology ‘25
Written in solidarity and collaboration by the Division of Mission Culture and Inclusive Community.
Celebrate with Community Events and Resources:
Latinx Flag Parade – Attention all Latinx individuals! A Latinx flag parade event is happening on September 26th from 1:30 – 3 pm at Arapaho campus. This parade will showcase the vibrant Latin culture through colorful and artistic flags displays, as well as traditional music and dancing. Participants are asked to dress in their most festive attire and march throughout the Arapahoe campus, bringing a sense of joy and pride to all spectators. The event promises to be an opportunity to celebrate the richness of the Latin community and promote unity and cultural diversity. Everyone is welcome to come and join in the festivities and experience the beauty of the Latin culture.
November 1st, Community of Practice Gathering, “Day of the Dead Ancestral Remembrance” Center for Culture, Identity, and Social Justice, Arapahoe campus, in person and online
In Northern Colorado including Boulder and Denver:
From KUNC NPR Northern Colorado From Selena tribute to drag show, find a way to celebrate Hispanic and Latino Coloradans this month
How to Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month 2023 in Denver
Day of the Dead Family Celebration
Saturday, Oct. 14, 11 am–3 pm; free
Downtown Longmont at 4th Avenue and Main Street
Hispanic? Latinx? Latino/a? Latine? Which to use and why it matters. Instagram Post: Slide Desck by @Ganeshspace
Chicano/Latino Historical Context in Denver: Educational Resources
National: Hispanic Heritage Month with the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, National Gallery and more