Celebrating Latin American Heritage Month at McMaster

Students, staff and faculty members

Students, staff, faculty and community members gather in McMaster’s CIBC Hall to mark the start of Latin American Heritage Month. Students Daniel Yanes Alvarenga is fourth from the left and Danielle Berges is fifth from the right.

“Our people are powerful, and remembering, celebrating and educating others about our communities and achievements is crucial” — McMaster student Daniel Yanes Alvarenga

Earlier this month, over 250 community members gathered on campus to mark the start of Latin American Heritage Month with a celebratory event complete with food, art and music.

The Latin American Network at McMaster (LANMU) held the event in partnership with Hamilton non-profit The Fraternity Hispanic Association (AFH).

“The Latin American Heritage month kick-off event allowed our growing community to come together in person and gave us a chance to celebrate our unique culture and traditions,” says Rodrigo Narro Pérez, a co-founder of LANMU and assistant professor in the Faculty of Science.

This is the fifth annual Latin American Heritage Month in Canada, an opportunity to recognize the social, economic and political contributions of people in this country who identify as Latin American/Latinx — which is a steadily-growing demographic.

Narro Pérez points out it is also an opportunity to educate others on the diverse experiences of people from the region — which includes North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean — and how race, racialization and ethnicity factor into representation.

“There are many Latin American and Latinx community members making a positive impact here on campus and in Hamilton,” says Narro Pérez. “Events like these can help in celebrating these accomplishments, while also letting students see their experiences and identities represented.”

The celebration featured food, artistic performances from three local musical groups and speeches from LANMU faculty members, including Deputy Provost Matheus Grasselli and Professor of Social Work Mirna Carranza.

“In celebrating Latin American Heritage Month, we are not only honouring the rich and varied histories that have shaped this vibrant region, but also reaffirming McMaster’s commitment to diversity, inclusivity and understanding,” says Grasselli, who is from Brazil.

“We know that it is through the sharing of varied perspectives like those of our Latinx students, staff and faculty that we can inspire innovation, empathy and a richer understanding of the world.”

Students, staff and faculty
Hamilton and McMaster community members (including, second from left: Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact Professor and LANMU faculty Shrikant I. Bangdiwala) gathered at the launch event

“It was truly an amazing experience,” says Danielle Berges, a third-year political science student and executive member of the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS). “Hearing people speak Spanish and Portuguese, exchanging names and enjoying the ambiance warmed my heart.”

Berges, who is from the Dominican Republic, says the event was especially meaningful as an international student.

“Moving to a different culture can be quite isolating. You go from being part of a familiar group to becoming the ‘other,’” says Berges. “Those unique aspects that may not have stood out before moving become even more precious, connecting you to your roots. Celebrating these specificities is a beautiful way to make Canada feel more like home for newcomers.”

Hamilton community members, including Deputy Mayor of Hamilton and Ward 11 Councillor Mark Tadeson (second from right), connected with McMaster community members, including Materials Science and Engineering Associate Professor and LANMU faculty Maureen Lagos (far right).

Daniel Yanes Alvarenga, a student from El Salvador and Guatemala, is a member of OLAS alongside Berges. He says the event left him feeling empowered.

“The event reinforced that representation is crucial,” says Yanes Alvarenga. “It is powerful to see diverse sets of Latinx people all in one room, especially in a city like Hamilton, Ontario.”

That representation is key, says Narro Pérez, who points to new data that continues to show Toronto students from Latin American communities are underrepresented in post-secondary institutions and face deep education inequities.

Efforts in recent years to support students at McMaster who come from Latin American communities have included an interdisciplinary minor in Latin American studies, supports for students through McMaster’s Access Program and the newly-established Latin American and Latinx Student Mentorship Program (LALS-MP).

“I am encouraged by the inclusive learning opportunities being created here at McMaster,” says Narro Pérez. “And I am really excited to see the impact a new generation of Latin American students will have on our community.”

Are you a McMaster community member from Latin America and/or its diasporas? Learn more about the Latin American and Latinx Student Mentorship Program here

Learn more about the Interdisciplinary Minor in Latin American and Latinx Studies here

Follow the Latin American Network at McMaster (LANMU) on Instagram


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