Southeast celebrates Hispanic Heritage
Sept. 15 was the first day of National Hispanic Heritage Month, but Southeast has been cranking out the festivities since the fall semester began.
Beginning on Aug. 4, Catapult Creative House welcomed a trio of artists native to Leòn, Mexico, who brought their unique and vibrant printwork to Cape Girardeau after being invited to open a gallery by Southeast art faculty member Dr. Joni Hand. Alejandra Mares, Xavier Moreno and Juan José Huerta took Hand up on the offer and brought their prints together in a gallery entitled “Convergentes,” meaning “to converge.”
According to the artists, the work presented in “Convergentes represents the heritage they are immersed in on a daily basis in Mexico, and they wanted the chance to display their work in hopes of bridging the gap between American and Mexican cultures.
“With this exhibition, it’s like a diary of moments in León,” Mares said. “We want to show everybody how we live in León; there’s little things [in the artwork] that remind us of the city.”
Southeast’s ceramics department, led by ceramics professor Benjie Heu, also created vibrant plates, masks and other projects in collaboration with the visiting artists. These ceramics were on display at Catapult for the remainder of the Latin-and Spanish-themed festivities last week.
While visiting the area, Mares, Huerta and Moreno distributed free prints of their artwork during the solar eclipse events at the River Campus, and they recently hosted a Red Light Night at the Cape Arts Council in which they talked about the importance of using environmentally-friendly materials in the artmaking process.
In addition to the artwork, Southeast’s River Campus has been bringing its talent to Catapult to aid in the celebration.
The Department of Music and the Department of Dance each put on performances last week. Sept. 20, music faculty members Christopher Goeke, Barb Lamont and Patrick Rafferty were joined by students from the department of music, who performed classical pieces in the Spanish language. Goeke said the experience has been interesting in that the songs are a departure from the normal material they come across.
“It’s been a wonderful opportunity for us to get to look at this material,” he said. “We usually only study French, English, German and Italian pieces.”
The following day, the Southeast Missouri Dance Ensemble performed contemporary dances entitled “About Nothing” and selections from “A Suite from A Choreographic Offering,” choreographed by Victor Alexander and Maray Gutierrez and José Limón, respectively.
The ensemble was directed by associate professor of dance Hilary Peterson, who said the task of learning the dances has given new perspective on bodily expression.
“I’ve learned a lot about the dancers who choreographed the pieces,” she said. “The influences and movements are different from dances native to America, so in that regard, I’ve learned about the culture of the choreographers.”
“About Nothing” was a recently-created piece by married choreographers Maray Gutierrez and Victor Alexander, who visited Southeast’s dance department on several occasions during the creation and learning process. Peterson said it was a treat to get to know the artists and learn firsthand about the Latin styles of dance from them.
Hispanic Heritage Month is a nationally-recognized time in the United States, and is celebrated through events across the country throughout September and October.
According to HispanicHeritageMonth.gov, Hispanic Heritage Month is rooted in the culture and traditions celebrated by Americans whose ancestry includes family from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. The recognition was originally implemented as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 by the administration of former president Lyndon B. Johnson, but the Reagan administration expanded it to Hispanic Heritage Month in 1988.
The start of Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15, holds a special meaning for the Spanish culture — it is the independence day for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile have independence days just days after, celebrated on Sept. 16 and 18, respectively. The Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Endowment for the Humanities and other organizations hold special exhibits and recognition for artists of Hispanic descent. Some of the most famous Hispanic American figures include writer Juan Felipe Herrera, actress and singer Jennifer Lopez, artist Pablo Picasso, baseball player Yadier Molina and many, many more.
The entirety of the “Convergentes” celebration, including the art, music and dance exhibits, was sponsored by Catapult Creative House, Southeast’s Office of International Business Programs, the university’s Department of Art and the Office of the President.
Hand said Hispanic Heritage Month should be something that is ongoing, rather than a one-month limitation.
“It’s something that shouldn’t just be for a month,” she said. “It’s a way to sort of erase the idea of ignorance between cultures, because the more you know the more you can connect with other people.”
For more information about Hispanic Heritage Month, visit www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov.