Yale professor discusses Latino history in guest discussion

Rolena Adorno speaking about what Columbus day means for us today and why Hispanic heritage month matters.  GVL / Andrew Nyhof

Rolena Adorno speaking about what Columbus day means for us today and why Hispanic heritage month matters.  GVL / Andrew Nyhof

Alexandra Loyd

On Wednesday, Oct. 18, Grand Valley State University hosted Professor of Spanish at Yale University Rolena Adorno to give a talk titled “What does Columbus Day mean? Why Hispanic Heritage Matters” in the Cook-Dewitt Center. The talk was given as part of the series of Hispanic Heritage Month events GVSU holds each year to both celebrate and educate the month.

“Professor Adorno is one of the top scholars in the field of colonial Latin American literature, as well as happens to be the former dissertation adviser for one of the faculty members who teachers in the Modern Languages and Literatures Department here,” said David Stark, Coordinator of GVSU’s Latin American and Latino/a Studies Program. 

This was Stark’s first time visiting GVSU — touching briefly on the history of Columbian commemorations in the United States, and the history and presence of Latino communities in the greater Midwest.

“My talk addressed how national holidays get made, how Columbus Day — and more recently, Hispanic History Month — came into being including recent controversies, looks at the important role that Latino communities have long played in our country, particularly here in the Midwest and concludes with remarks about the current challenges facing all of us regarding their full integration into American society,” Adorno said. 

The talk in general further discussed how we deal with the historical past, thus, was kicked off with reference to the recent controversies over public monuments in the US. 

Upon the discussion’s conclusion, Adorno said he wanted guests to better understand the history Latinos had in America’s past.

“The takeaways from my talk are that we should all be more aware of the role that Latinos have played in American society, not just since the establishment of Hispanic Heritage Month, but in the long history of the U.S.,” Adorno said. “[I also want guests to] take into account the similarities and differences with other immigrant communities in the past.”

This was Adorno’s first visit to Grand Valley, helping to celebrate one of the many presentations, talks, workshops, and programs in the series of Hispanic Heritage events that Grand Valley offers. Assistant Director at the Office of Multicultural Affairs Adriana Almanza said that the month’s celebration works to appreciate the Hispanic community not only at GVSU but around the world. 

“Hispanic Heritage Month is something we celebrate all year round,” Almanza said. “In collaboration with campus and community partners, as well as student organizations, it is an ongoing effort to create a space where our Hispanic community feels appreciated and acknowledged, and also a time to educate the larger campus community about Hispanic history and culture.” 

Grand Valley offers events like Professor Adorno’s talk all year round. Future events include a Dia De Los Muertos celebration and a “LSU 40th Anniversary Celebration,” which is a dinner and dance.

“The Hispanic Heritage Celebration planning committee is committed to bringing quality events to campus that highlight the contributions of the Hispanic community,” Almanza said. “We try to incorporate a variety of themes so that there is something for everyone to enjoy.”