The Stevens Point community was host to a conversation on politics and a festival of multiculturalism through Celebración Hispana, put together by the Latino Student Alliance on Saturday, March 10 in the Dreyfus University Center. Over one hundred guests were in attendance, filling nearly all tables in the room.
“The toughest challenge is having enough hands for the food preparation. We were very blessed this year to have several other diversity organizations on campus (Black Student Union, International Club and Spanish Club) reach out and volunteer their time. I was elated by the turnout for the event,” said Latino Student Alliance President Megan “AJ” Jacklen.
Recently, media outlets have given more coverage to the undocumented student movement, the need for immigration reform, and more so the importance of the Hispanic vote on coming elections.
UW - Stevens Point History professor Anju Reejhsinghani chose to focus her keynote speech on the rising importance of Latinos across the country, the increasing attacks ethnic minorities face, due to redistricting and voter suppression laws, and how the Latino community can organize itself.
The keynote address, entitled “Pride or Prejudice: The Impact of the Latino Vote in 2012,” mentioned that Latinos are projected to represent nine percent of the electorate in the coming presidential election--a fact that few politicians with national aspirations have failed to notice. Latinos will represent roughly one-third of the population by 2050.
Among other demographic statistics, such as the disproportionate representation of Latinos in the nation’s childhood poverty rates, Reejhsinghani further mentioned that Photo ID Laws such as in Wisconsin are highly disproportionate against ethnic minorities, especially U.S. citizens who are first or second generation immigrants.
“Dr. Reejhsinghani choose a very important topic to the Latino community and I was very happy to see she wasn't shy about presenting the topic head on,” Jacklen said. “We are constantly hearing about how the Latino population is making an impact, but never why. Most of us simply assume it is because of the sheer number of the growing Hispanic community, but Dr. Reejhsinghani was able to give a much deeper explanation. Her topic was perfect for not only Celebración Hispana, but also for the upcoming presidential election.”
Earlier this month, Time Magazine dedicated its cover to why Latinos will choose the next president. A story entitled “Who will win over America’s Latino voters?,” on NPR this Sunday told about Phoenix City Council member Daniel Valenzuela, who won his seat in a historically Republican stronghold by recruiting college students to assist in a voter drive. Valenzuela’s volunteers knocking on 72,000 doors and thus increasing Latino voter turnout by 488 percent, thus giving him an electoral majority.
The night was attended by several faculty and academic staff, as well as students and community members. Student Government presidential and vice-presidential candidates Seth Hoffmeister and Shantanu Pai were also part of Celebración.
Although the event featured a keynote address, dinner and a dance, the event was loaded with deeper symbolic and literal meaning. In a community where the Hispanic population is insignificant or ‘dismissible,’ events like Celebración are perhaps more significant than in places where the Hispanic and Latino communities are more visible.
“Being a minority in this community, I feel it is very important to show and share my culture with others. Only through hands-on experience and interaction can events like this bring people together of all ethnicities, beliefs and backgrounds. Celebración is much more than a night of music, dance and food. This night is a great way to educate and celebrate diversity.”
"The fact is the Latino people in the States have the power of their voice and the power of their vote. However, as Latinos we have to be proud of our cultural heritage and for what we do for this country. We can do that and we will be empowered to fight for all Latinos around issues such as the Dream Act," said Dr. Elia J. Armacanqui-Tipacti, who also noted with regret that most Latino students on campus were not involved in the Latino Student Alliance.
“Divided we won’t advance,” she said.
Jacklen said the next academic year’s Celebración will be held in September, to coincide with Hispanic heritage month.