Office of the President

October 15, 2021

Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month and the many contributions of Latinx people

Ana Mari Cauce

Today marks the end of National Hispanic Heritage Month, an acknowledgement which began in 1968 as a week, and expanded to a full month in 1988. The designation was created to draw attention to the vibrant and diverse group of Americans who, like me, have origins in Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and South America.

National Hispanic Heritage Month begins and ends mid-month, from September 15 to October 15. These dates are significant because September 15 is the anniversary of independence for a number of Latin American countries including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18.

Although the month officially ends today, it’s by no means the end of opportunities to explore and celebrate the many contributions of Hispanic and Latinx faculty, staff, students and alumni to history, culture and scientific achievement, as well as the impact of Latinx artists and thinkers on our campuses. Both within and beyond our University, there is much to discover.

“La Garzas” by Alfredo Arreguin, ’67, ’69 hangs in my office

For example, pay a visit to the Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery in West Seattle, owned and co-directed by UW alumnus and Chicano artist Jake Prendez. Or check out writing by UW faculty like Carolyn Pinedo-Turnovsky, associate professor of American Ethnic Studies, whose book Daily Labors: Marketing Identity and Bodies on a New York City Street Corner examines the lives of New York City day laborers. There are even hidden gems on campus — the next time you’re in Kane Hall, visit the second floor to find the fresco mural, “The Struggle Against Racial Discrimination”, by renowned Mexican artist Pablo O’Higgins, one of only two O’Higgins murals in the United States. Later this month, my friend and fellow Cuban émigré, artist and activist Juan Alonso-Rodriquez, will give an interview about his work as this year’s UW Libraries Artist Images lecture. And every day, I take inspiration from the work of our alumnus, Alfredo Arreguin whose stunning and unique style of pattern paintings have earned him worldwide acclaim. 

Everywhere you look, the talents and perspectives of Latinx people are in evidence, and it makes me incredibly proud to see how Hispanic and Latinx people have helped to shape our nation’s culture and values. Especially now, as we seek to protect the rights of immigrants, including the young people covered by DACA, it’s important to raise awareness of the profound contributions that so many immigrants who came before them have made. Thank you to the many Hispanic and Latinx UW students, faculty, staff and alumni who enrich our great public university with talents as diverse as you are. You help to make the UW excellent and you are essential to our collective positive impact.