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2023 Latinx Heritage Month celebration: A month-long journey … – Illinois State University News

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Latinx Heritage Month is here and Illinois State University’s Latin American and Latina/o Studies program is thrilled to announce the lineup of events and activities that celebrate the contributions and vibrant cultures of Latina/o/x/e communities in the U.S. and the Americas. This annual observance officially runs from September 15 to October 15, but Illinois State extends the celebration beyond a month. Join us from September 12 to November 2023 for our exploration of identity, art, literature, and thought-provoking discussions.
Dr. Maura Toro-Morn, the director of the University’s Latin American and Latino/a/x Studies program, highlights this year’s theme, stating, “This year we have several events that coalesce around several themes. There is the theme of art and artistic contributions exemplified by the work of Yolanda Alonso who has curated a series of photos of local Latinos to not only tell their stories but to highlight what they do and how they contribute to our local community. In November, we are very excited to welcome to campus the Marilyn and Larry Fields curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Chicago, Carla Acevedo-Yates, who will visit campus to talk about promoting Latiné art in places like the MCA. The keynote speaker of the month is anthropologist Dr. Hilda Lloréns, who will speak about ecological knowledge and sustainable practices in Afro-Puerto Rican communities. Immigration issues feature prominently among contemporary writers, and this year we have a new collaboration with ISU’s Publications Unit. In October, we will welcome campus writer Nadia Villafuerte for a reading from her recent book.” 
The celebration will launch with an engaging discussion on the evolving labels of Latino, Latinx, and Hispanic.
Join us for a month of cultural exploration, thought-provoking discussions, and artistic expression as we celebrate Latinx Heritage Month at Illinois State University. For more information and updates on these events, please visit our website or follow us on social media.
You can also contact Lourdes D. Concepción Cabán at ldconce@IllinoisState.edu and/or Dr. Maura Toro-Morn at mitmorn@IllinoisState.edu.
Date: Tuesday, September 12, 2023
Time: 7 p.m.
Place: McLean County Museum of History
This event dives into the experiences, challenges, and opportunities of our local Latina/o/x community members. Our diverse panel, with personal connections to the topic, aims to deepen our understanding of the dynamic nature of Latina/o/x identity. We’ll also continue last year’s conversation on cultural and social politics surrounding these identities
Sponsored by: McLean County Museum of History, the Organization of Latinx Employees (OLE), and the Latin American and Latino Studies program.
Grand opening reception: Saturday, September 16
Exhibition: Saturday, September 16 to Saturday, November 4
Time: 10 a.m.-noon
Place: Illinois Art Station
Yolanda Alonso, originally from northern Mexico, arrived in Bloomington-Normal in 2019. A journalist and business professional, she recognized the value of celebrating the rich cultural tapestry of the community. Through her platform, Latinos en BloNo, Alonso captures and preserves the lived experiences of Latino/a/e/x community members, curating a contemporary history of the local Latino experience.
We Are the Latinos En BloNo: Our Stories in Words & Photographs is the art and work of Alonso. In this artist-curated exhibition, Alonso explores and celebrates the lived experiences of Latino/a/e/x community members in Bloomington-Normal that she has captured and preserved through her platform and online presence Latinos en BloNo.
Sponsored by: Illinois Art Station and the Latin American and Latina/o/x Studies.
Date: Monday, September 18, 2023
Time: 4 p.m.
Place: Publications Unit, Williams Hall Annex
Micki Berthelot Morency, a prolific writer and advocate for women and children, brings a gripping narrative that delves into abuse survivorship. Through the intertwined stories of four friends—Monique, Cecilia, Lanei, and Ella—readers embark on a transformative journey filled with resilience, hope, and the pursuit of individual freedom.
The Island Sisters transcends the boundaries of friendship, delving into cultural beliefs, choices, and the universal experience of domestic violence and abuse. Morency’s powerful storytelling resonates with her advocacy work, empowering women to seek their own path to freedom. This book is a testament to the enduring power of human connection and personal empowerment.
For more information click here.
Sponsored by: Illinois State University’s Publication Unit and the Latin American and Latina/o/x Studies program.
Date: Thursday, September 21, 2023
Time: 4:30-6 p.m.
Place: Schroeder Hall Gallery
Curated by skilled geographer Shea Grehan, this exhibit delves deep into the essence of Cuba—its landscapes, people, and traditions. Grehan’s passionate curiosity led to a transformative exploration of the country, seeking to unravel the intricate threads that make up the Cuban sense of place.
As you explore the exhibit, each photograph becomes a window into the daily rhythms and extraordinary moments of Cuban life. From bustling cityscapes to coastal landscapes, spirited performances to the quiet resilience of stray cats and dogs, Grehan’s work offers an authentic journey that transcends observation, immersing you in the scenes captured.
“Exploring Cuba” masterfully weaves together Cuba’s society, revealing the intricate mosaic of this vibrant culture. Each image contributes to a collective narrative that portrays the vivid portrait of Cuban life. This exhibit invites you to partake in a remarkable voyage, gaining a deeper appreciation for the beauty, spirit, and diversity that define Cuba.
Sponsored by: Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Wonsook Kim School of Art, and Latin American and Latino Studies.
Date: Friday, September 22, 2023
Time: 7 p.m.
Place: Williams Hall 314
This event aims to shed light on the unique issues faced by Latino/a/x individuals as they navigate the complex landscapes of college and career planning after higher education. Our esteemed panel of accomplished Latino/a/x professionals, representing diverse fields, will share their personal experiences, insights, and strategies for overcoming obstacles. Our panelists have triumphed over the challenges that often arise on the path to success.
Sponsored by: Latinx Alumni Network, Latin American and Latina/o/x Studies program, and the Organization of Latinx Employees (OLE).
Date: Thursday, October 5, 2023
Time: 6 p.m.
Place: Publications Unit, Williams Hall Annex
Published by the Downstate Legacies at Illinois State University’s Publication Unit, this profound exploration of the human experience along Mexico’s southern border offers a deeply poignant and harrowing perspective on characters navigating a shared yet often overlooked reality. In Ships in Houston, Villafuerte’s acute attention to language and dialects paints a vivid backdrop for 15 stories. From exotic dancers and sex workers to truck drivers and drug dealers, each character inhabits a world defined by the stark challenges of the borderlands. These narratives unfold mostly within Mexico, shedding light on the stringent immigration policies that cast Central American migrants into the shadows of uncertainty and fear.
Translated for the first time into English by Julie Ann Ward, Villafuerte’s edgy and fragmentary narrative style resonates deeply, offering a jarring yet profoundly humanizing experience for readers. Explore the intimate facets of life along Mexico’s southern border, engage with characters whose stories resonate long after the final page is turned, and join us for a bilingual reading that bridges cultures, languages, and the universal threads of the human experience. 
Sponsored by: Illinois State University’s Publication Unit and the Latin American and Latina/o/x Studies program.
Date: Tuesday, October 17, 2023
Time: 7 p.m.
Place: Felmley Hall Annex 133
As both an associate professor and scholar at the University of Rhode Island (URI), Dr. Hilda Lloréns imparts her wisdom, inviting students to question the structures that shape our lives and the power dynamics that drive our societies. Lloréns challenges structural inequalities by examining how racial and gender disparities intersect with access to environmental resources and exposure to degradation. Her work sheds light on the intricacies of power that shape our world.
“Making Livable Worlds” delves into the lives of Afro-Puerto Rican women who defy limitations to become visionaries, path breakers, and problem solvers. These resilient women reshape a world initially stacked against them. Through kinship, community, and alliance-building, they illuminate the path toward a reconstructed world that sustains their lives, families, and communities. Despite facing multiple crises, the women portrayed in the book embody a profound spirit of hope, creativity, and joy. Their everyday practices of worldmaking create spaces of affirmation and well-being, crafting good lives for themselves and their communities.
Sponsored by: Latin American and Latina/o/x Studies program, the African American Studies, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program, and the Department of Geography, Geology, and the Environment.
Date: Friday, October 20, 2023
Time: 3 p.m.
Place: Williams Hall
Dr. Felix Rodriguez brings a wealth of experience to this discussion, having worked as an art education supervisor and educator. His research interests include socially engaged art education, K-12 curriculum development, critical pedagogy, and postcolonial theories.
Drawing from the theoretical work of Paulo Freire and Chela Sandoval, Rodriguez examines how racial hierarchies were normalized in art education through the celebration of the countryside, colonial monuments, and the tropical beauty of the island.
In the Dominican Republic, the contribution of African heritage was often obscured in favor of emphasizing Hispanic and indigenous histories. This practice, rooted in colonial and imperialistic discourses, excluded non-white bodies from the narrative of civilization. Rodriguez explores how these racial politics, influenced by the Dominican Republic’s relationship with Haiti, shaped the nation’s identity and art education.
Sponsored by: Latin American and Latina/o/x Studies program and the Organization of Latinx Employees (OLE).
Date: Wednesday, November 1, 2023
Time: Noon
Place: University Galleries
Explore the art of curation with Carla Acevedo-Yates, a seasoned curator, researcher, and art critic whose career spans Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States. Acevedo-Yates’ passion lies in amplifying artists’ voices and forging connections between their work and audiences. Her portfolio includes curatorial roles at esteemed institutions like the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University. Acevedo-Yates has curated groundbreaking exhibitions, featuring renowned artists such as Johanna Unzueta, Claudia Peña Salinas, Jesús “Bubu” Negrón, Duane Linklater, and Scott Hocking. Notably, she curated “Fiction of a Production,” an exhibition spotlighting the innovative work of Argentinian conceptual art luminary David Lamelas.
With an academic background encompassing an M.A. in curatorial studies and contemporary art from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and a B.A. in Spanish and Latin American Cultures from Barnard College, Acevedo-Yates’ insights have earned her acclaim, including a Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant.
Join us for an enlightening lecture by Acevedo-Yates as she shares her journey as an art curator and her dedication to enriching our interconnected cultural landscape.
Sponsored by: University Galleries, the Latin American and Latina/o/x Studies program, and the Organization of Latinx Employees (OLE).
Date: Wednesday, November 1, 2023
Time: 4-7 p.m.
Place: McLean County Museum of History
Join the McLean County Museum of History in celebrating Día de los Muertos. All ages are welcome to come celebrate this Mexican tradition with art, music, and history. The event will feature music from Marcos Mendez, art making with the Illinois Art Station, and the community Ofrenda designed by Miriam and Jesus Padilla. The Museum will be free and open all day, with their Ofrenda on display in the Rotunda.
For more information, please visit mchistory.org or contact Micaela Harris.
Date, time, and place to be announced.
Wrap up our Latinx Heritage Month with a cultural dinner. Stay tuned for more details.

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