Fiestas and dancing highlight Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations.
Students at the Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach Campuses of Tidewater Community College enjoyed Hispanic fare and Latin-inspired dancing during fiestas held in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
A warm and sunny day brought droves of students to the quad on the Chesapeake Campus for dance lessons with Jonathan Green, a TCC instructor who also operates a dance studio.
To the sounds of a well-known local band, Tumbao Salsero, students practiced their moves and learned the salsa and meringue.
Other activities included cornhole, sand art and henna tattoos.
Lassen encourages students to follow their dreams
TCC’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration continued at the Chesapeake Campus with a talk by Puerto Rican author Luis Lassen on Sept. 24. “My dream has always been to become an author, and on my journey, I was encouraged to write about what I know,” he said. “So I went home to my father’s place, and the words came flooding out.”
Lassen’s first novel “Laguna Negra” is based on his story of growing up in public housing in San Juan. “We were poor and surrounded by unleashed violence, but we had a mother that kept a close rein on all of us and a father who believed in education,” he said.
Lassen dreamed of a better life and earned his way into a well-respected university. “While in college, I did whatever I could to earn money, from selling water bottles in traffic lines to selling earrings and trinkets in the hallways of my school.”
After graduating, Lassen moved to New York City to work on his writing career. “When I first arrived in New York, I didn’t even have a winter coat. My grandmother sent me one of hers from 1967, so while I was not in fashion, I was warm,” he said. “It was painful at the beginning because my English was poor, and I was not used to the harsh weather.”
Lassen self published his first novel, but it has since been republished by Mill City Press in English. “I encourage young people to stay in school and fight for their dreams no matter how difficult the path,” he said.
“I would not trade my growing up years for anything, because that time taught me not to be afraid of anything,” he added. “Look for the bright spots, like the school field trips we took to the beautiful beaches in Puerto Rico as children.”
Lassen is now working on his first screenplay with the San Francisco Film Commission.
Nationally recognized journalist kicks off inaugural event for Office of Intercultural Learning
Longtime journalist Juan Gonzalez kicked off TCC’s Hispanic Heritage Month with his keynote address at the Roper Performing Arts Center. The evening speech followed by a dessert reception was the inaugural event of TCC’s recently announced Office of Intercultural Learning, which integrates social and cultural activities with student learning.
In his career spanning more than 35 years, Gonzalez has emerged as one of the nation’s most respected Latino journalists. He is both a staff columnist for The New York Daily News and a co-host of the nationally syndicated morning news show Democracy Now! His four books include “Harvest of Empire: A history of Latinos in America,” which he drew from extensively in his speech that discussed the void of information about the contributions of Latinos to American history.
In his first visit to Norfolk, Gonzalez noted that despite the proliferation of media outlets, the American people remain misinformed. A native of Puerto Rico who grew up in Brooklyn and Harlem, Gonzalez said he learned nothing in school about the people from his own homeland in addition to the impact of Cubans, Hondurans and other ethnic groups.
“The news media depicted us as threats to society,” he said, citing the musical “West Side Story” with its depiction of a Puerto Rican street gang as one example of perpetuating stereotypes. “The history books are one-sided, too. They keep depicting minorities in a stereotypical manner.”
The 346-page “Harvest of Empire,” now used by more than 200 colleges, offers a glimpse of the sacrifices and rarely reported feats of Latin Americans in American history. The book examines 500 years – from the New World colonies to the modern day century with Hispanics projected to become the largest minority group in this country in the next decade.
“By 2050, the Latino population will be one third of our population,” Gonzalez said. “At the end of the 21st century, more than half the people will be able to trace their origin to Latin America.”
Understanding how Latino pioneers transformed the cultural landscape of the United States will therefore become increasingly important, Gonzalez said. He also stressed immigration reform as a key priority in politics, noting, “This will decide what kind of country we are going to be in the future.”