On October 19, 2022, Berkeley High School held a Latinx Heritage Month Assembly at the Little Theater with around 220 students in attendance. Students and leaders of BHS’s Latines Unidos Club, Ivan Cuatlatl-Tello, Paola Bedolla García, and Jasmine Moreira-Cortés, along with literature teacher Amanda Moreno, organized the event.
According to Cuatlatl-Tello, the assembly was hosted in order to celebrate and highlight Latinx Heritage Month. In addition, a goal was to show the diversity in the artistic mediums used by the Latinx community.
“Through these types of events, we hope to expose other students to a different culture to highlight our uniqueness,” Cuatlatl-Tello said. “Hopefully, individuals will become more interested in learning about Latinx culture in greater depth.”
Cuatlatl-Tello also spoke about how students of Latinx descent feel isolated in humanities classes or predominantly white classes, and when assemblies like these happen, students can feel included and proud of their culture.
The assembly consisted of poetry performances, Aztec and modern dance, singing, and a guest speaker from the local Bay Area organization, Los Pobres Artistas. The assembly also included a promotion for clubs that foster Latinx cultural pride such as the Native Student Union, Latines Unidos, and the Spanish National Honor Society.
Moreira-Cortés, a senior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS), added that these types of events foster cultural pride because they encourage students to want to participate. Knowing that there’s people who look like those performers in these events encourages students to participate.
“I think part of the reason why I might have felt a bit ashamed to share my own culture was because we don’t tend to see these differences in culture in Berkeley,” Moreira-Cortés said. “Lots of people don’t see these things everyday, but I wanted people watching the assembly to understand that it’s more than just a dance or a culture. It’s part of who you are as a person. It’s what resembles you.”
Bedolla García, a BIHS senior, added on, saying that the event during her freshman year similarly included music, dancing, and food outside of the theater, which made her feel seen and proud of her culture.
“During the event, it felt so satisfying to see all this hard work pay off. It was amazing to see people enjoy the performances,” Cuatatl-Tello said. “After the event, it felt great to see people exposed to our culture and having Latinx students happy after having their culture represented in some shape or form. It was amazing to see our performers content with the work that they put out to the audience.”
Bedolla García added that she felt accomplished because after the tragedy that hit BHS’s Latinx community, many of the club members were affected.
“It was amazing that we were able to create this assembly,” said Bedolla García. “And to have their support and help and have everything go so smoothly. I’m very proud of our club.”
Moreira-Cortés added on, saying that even though this event was successful, the assemblies and events that foster cultural pride should be more spread out. Instead of honoring the community for just a month, talking and being educated about different cultures should be normalized throughout the school year.
Josefa Landaverde, a junior in Academic Choice (AC), performed La Llorona, a significant song to the Latinx community.
“I don’t think anything really motivated me,” said Landaverde. “I just wanted to contribute to my community.”
Ishy Hechavvaria-Davis, a senior in AC, performed a poem about his experiences as a Cuban-American called “Cuban Heaven.”
“At night, stars are dancing, insects are singing,” Hechavvaria-Davis said. “Street lights dimming. To Cuban heaven, everyone is like a diamond in the sea of glass, cars old and preserved. The streets of oceans with ripples.”
Dylan Salazar, a senior in Arts and Humanities Academy (AHA), recited a poem about his encounters as a Peruvian-American called “Peruvian American Disambiguation.”
“For the colleges love so that they can show diversity on their web pages, who this school calls Latino,” Salazar said. “Who my parents call mijito when they can’t be by my side because I am in America.”