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UB's Intercultural and Diversity Center introduces a tasty way to learn about cultures

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Spanish music blaring in the background, desserts, slideshows and trivia questions marked this month’s Hispanic Heritage cultural awareness celebration.

From 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 24 in Student Union 240, the Hispanic Heritage Dessert Hour highlighted a variety of Latino cultures. This month’s dessert hour was put on by the Student Association and held at the Intercultural and Diversity Center (IDC).

“The desserts provided reminded me of the time I spent in Central America and as well as how much I would like to get involved with learning more Spanish language and culture,” Jesse Moses, a junior international study major, said in an email.

The U.S. Hispanic population is now more than 54.1 million, according to the Census Bureau data. Hispanic students make up 6.5 percent of UB’s student body, according to Forbes.

“It is important for UB to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month to make others aware that the university has serviced and invested in the Hispanic Community [and] vise versa for years,” said Marcelina Rodriguez Rondon, a senior counselor at the Educational Opportunity Program in an email. “The Hispanic community has contributed to the multicultural experience and what the University is today.”

President Lyndon Johnson began Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 and President Ronald Reagan expanded it to a month-long celebration in 1988. It begins on Sept. 15 and runs through Oct. 15 to coincide with the celebration of the independence of Latin American countries from Spain. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, which celebrate their independence on Sept. 15. Other Latin American countries like Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence in September.

“By learning more about other cultures in our UB community, we find that we have more in common with our classmates than we previously thought,” said Helia Zand, a senior biomedical major. “I feel that so often Hispanic Heritage refers to a broad idea without acknowledging the individual contributions and uniqueness of each Hispanic country.”

Terri Budek, the assistant director of IDC, and Kavitha Muralidhar, a higher education graduate student, agree that Hispanic Heritage Dessert Hour furthers the goal of the IDC, which celebrates the cultures of students on campus. They believe students gain an appreciation for other cultures and ethnicities when they learn about them in interesting ways.

Zand, Budek and Muralidhar said the dessert hour was special because it celebrated multiple Latino cultures, rather than just a generic Hispanic experience.

Rondon said she firmly believes in informing people about the contrasting traditions, customs and celebrations within the different Hispanic countries, but she said the desserts at the event did not give a fair representation of different Latino cultures. She hoped to have more homemade desserts other than store-bought wafers, plantain chips and tortilla chips.

“The dessert hours did not meet my expectation,” Rondon said in an email. “I wanted to taste desserts from Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, etc.”

Zand felt that the dessert hour was not only a great way to meet new people, but that it provided a tasty way to learn more about the Hispanic population.

Anmol Bambrah, a graduate programming major, agreed. She said she thinks that having a dessert hour about a particular culture cultivates a way for students and faculty members to have open discussions.

“It's important for me because I get to be in a more open-minded environment, where I can learn about others. The dessert hour is one example that shows what UB is all about,” Bambrah said.

Rondon said any occasion that creates awareness concerning other ethnic groups, languages, food and traditions brings the community together.

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