Eric Alva

Photo courtesy of: Office of Multicultural Programs

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Hispanic Heritage Month shares the diversity spotlight

Ohio University's National Hispanic Heritage Month celebration carries the theme "Many Backgrounds, Many Stories … One American Spirit." 

Since 1988, National Hispanic Heritage Month is held annually in the United States from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 to honor people of Latin American descent. The 30-day celebration period encompasses the various anniversary dates of independences won by Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. 

This year's keynote speaker is Eric Alva. An embodiment of diversity, himself, Alva is a disabled Iraq War Veteran of Hispanic descent and a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) activist. He has been featured on numerous national programs such as Good Morning America, Newsweek, and Anderson Cooper 360.

Alva will talk about being Hispanic and gay in the military and the influence it has had on his current political activism at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, in Walter Hall Rotunda.

Winsome Chunnu, assistant director of multicultural programs, explained that when coordinating the event, "We were not looking for someone with the quintessential look or discourse, but we wanted to show that there is diversity in every group."

As a member of the 3rd Battalion of the 7th Marines, Alva served in "Operation Iraqi Freedom" and became the first American injured in the war. He retired after 13 years of service and came out as a gay man. Fueled by his experience, he became a human rights activist lobbying for the "Military Readiness Enhancement Act" aimed at repealing the policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." 

Alva's influential work became nationally recognized after his presence at President Obama's signing of the law that formally ended discrimination against sexual orientation in the military. 

Alva's story is not only representative of Hispanic heritage, but it also incorporates the October month's celebrations of National Disability Employment Awareness and LGBT Awareness.

Chunnu ties Alva to this year's theme by quoting her own Jamaican heritage, "Out of many, one people."

She explained the connection, "At the end of the day we are all one people and we're all struggling to deal with the same issues, irrespective of these so called differences."

This free event is sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Programs and Black Student Cultural Programming Board.

Other activities celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month on the Athens campus include:

Cultural Food Throw-Down - A festival featuring a host of Latin American foods will take place at 7 p.m. Oct. 12 (location TBA). It is hosted by the Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority.

"BLACK in Latin America" – A film series discussing social and political issues and what it means to be black in Latin American countries will be shown on several nights throughout the celebration in the Bentley Room 220, hosted by HOLA, a Latin American graduate student organization. The film showing dates are: Tuesday, Sept. 20; Wednesday, Sept. 28; Tuesday Oct. 4; Tuesday Oct.11

Latin American artifacts will be on display in Baker University Center – date TBA. 

For more information about Hispanic Heritage Month, contact the Office of Multicultural Programs at 740-593-4027.