CSU celebrates Hispanic heritage

By mlekovic

Upon entering the Quinceañera exhibition at the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building, boisterous artwork along with loud colors and immense female figures immediately present themselves to audiences. The mixture of colors makes the portraits stand out and grab patrons’ attention as they walk through the exhibition, noticing the celebration of womanhood and womens’ revival in the Latino culture.

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 and recognizes the independence of eight different countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Chile, Belize, Honduras and Mexico. The celebration started as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, but it was later expanded to a month-long festival in 1988 to celebrate the liberation of these countries.

Hispanic Heritage Month will also be celebrated at Chicago State University with a showcase of artwork from Chicago-based artists Judithe Hernández and Sergio Gómez. The exhibition will be open from Sept. 16 through Nov. 6 on the CSU campus in the President’s Gallery, 9501 S. King Drive.

The Curator of the galleries program at CSU, Joyce Owens Anderson, said CSU wants to honor all cultures.

“It’s important for us to understand each other and to be able to speak other languages in our country,” Anderson said. “Chicago has a large Latino population.”

Chicago is blessed with a variety of cultures, and the Latino communities vary in heritage. Many Latino communities in Chicago have a blend of cultures within themselves.

The artwork that Gómez and Hernández will show at the exhibition has many references to their Latino heritage.

“Like so many Chicano artists, I have drawn from the wealth of my cultural inheritance to describe visually who we are, what we value, how we define beauty and to assert the belief that the artist as [a] citizen has the responsibility to give voice to the issues affecting the disenfranchised of society,” Hernández said in a press release.

Hernández said that she leavesd interpretation of her drawings to the viewer because she believes that the work has to stand on its own and it’s the viewer who brings their various experiences to the images they see.

“I’m drawing from my heritage as a Mexican-American and my experiences … I draw on that for inspiration, but I am more interested in hearing what people get from what they see rather than for me to tell them,” Hernández said.

Some of her artwork is related to events that she experienced growing up. The Civil Rights Movement, the Chicano Movement, which was involved in the protest against the Vietnam War, and the school lock-outs in Los Angeles are all reflected in her artwork.

“It was a time when Mexican-Americans were finally taking over their political destiny,” Hernández said.

Hernández said there is still an element of discrimination, which is a reason that Latinos are underrepresented in both the political arena and the economic arena.

There may be something in one of the activities during the month that may reach a person, Hernández said in an interview.

“These kinds of events serve to remind certain generations that they still have a responsibility and an incredible cultural heritage,” Hernández said.

This two-person collaboration will portray the commonality of ethnic heritage between the two artists.

Sergio Gómez, a visual artist, said a lot of his heritage ends up being part of his overall work.

“It’s another show,” Gómez said. “It’s a good opportunity to exhibit along with Hernández. “It brings the viewer two different approaches of art. Both of us have Latino heritage, so our work compliments each other nicely.”

The two artists weren’t chosen for the exhibition because they are Latino, they were selected because they are excellent, Anderson said.

Hernández and Gómez are both Mexican but in years past, exhibitions during Hispanic Heritage Month at CSU have portrayed artwork from painters descending from Guatemala, Panama and a range of the Latino Diaspora—a movement of any population sharing common ethnic identity who are residents in areas far from their original origins.

“These two artists can address issues that are pertinent to Latino issues— political, social and cultural,” Anderson said.

“If you see a painting or drawing about women being abused, like in Hernández’s piece on the women of Juarez, you can also think of other cultures where women have been abused and see it as a statement about abuse in general,” said Anderson.

Columbia also has an art exhibition, “Quinceañera,”a coming-of-age Latino ceremony held on a girl’s 15th birthday. The show opened on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month.Teresa Puente, assistant professor in the  Journalism Department and instructor of the Latina Voices course at Columbia, said Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to have cultural events, parties and celebrations.

“The Latino community is of such a size that I don’t think we should celebrate it one month of the year,” said Puente. “It’s important for our culture to be recognized, but most people don’t celebrate it just in this month, people live it year-round.”

To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Columbia will have an assortment of events throughout the month that include: World Music Festival, Cinema Slapdown and a Latino AIDS Awareness Day. Also, events will be celebrated throughout the city.