BY: JULIANNE SAAD, Guest Columnist
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With Hispanic Heritage Month spanning from Sept. 15- Oct. 15, the Office of Student Engagement has decided to celebrate. Every week, they will host a Hispanic-themed event geared towards getting students involved, and to give them a chance to learn about the Hispanic culture.

Last Wednesday, Sept. 16 (Mexican Independence Day), it was “Cultural Craft: Make Your Own Piñata.” On the second floor of the UC, I was greeted by student and OSE employee Brenda Hernandez, a junior studying pre-business, and I was invited in to make a piñata for myself. Sprawled out on the table were paper bag piñatas already filled with candy, ready to decorate. With things like different colored tissue paper, markers, character masks and lots of stickers, there was tons of creative freedom with making your own piñata.

Hernandez and Dexter Overall, coordinator for Diversity Programs with the OSE, worked together to choose an activity for students to do that was inspired by Hispanic culture, and what’s better than free candy and piñatas?

“One of the best parts of the collegiate experience is the opportunity to interact with people who are different from you and who have a different background from you. Plus, everyone loves crafts and everyone loves a fun time, so we wanted to use piñatas to introduce them to new things like the Hispanic culture,” Overall said.

While making our piñatas, I got the chance to talk to Hernandez about why Hispanic Heritage Month and celebrating it with activities here at school is so important to her.

“I am a second generation Mexican-American, and culture is really important to me. I visit Mexico often, and I got to spend two weeks there this summer,” she said. “I experienced a lot of craft-making while I was there, and I thought making piñatas would be a great way for other students to get a little slice of my culture.”

Hernandez also spoke about why it is so important to her to reach out to other students with a Hispanic background.

“It’s different being a part of a minority group, and sometimes people are discouraged from things like education just based on different stereotypes or stigmas of Hispanic-Americans. Having other students that you can identify with and push yourself through college with is something that I think is very beautiful.”

What did I take away from my piñata making experience? Being an Arab-American growing up in Dearborn, I normally have limited opportunities to experience cultures different from my own, with Dearborn having the highest Arab population in the United States. So having these opportunities to experience new things and learn about other cultures is so important to me and I’m very grateful that UM-Dearborn has so much of that to offer.

While making my own piñata, I listened to Hernandez speak to her friend Stephanie Chapa about what it was like growing up Hispanic. They talked about things like what taco trucks they used to visit, and what it was like to celebrate Hispanic holidays at their elementary schools. They talked about their favorite restaurants where they could go to get authentic Mexican food, comparing it to the authentic food their mothers and grandmothers make.

Listening to just this short conversation reminded me that there is so much more that the world has to offer. There are so many other cultures that we can learn about, and even learn from. And it’s these differences that are so important, and ironically what have the power to bring us together. Like Overall said, an important factor of the collegiate experience is to meet people with different cultures and different backgrounds, and I think that is what makes it so special. Not only are you going to school to learn more about your field of choice, there are so many opportunities to learn about the differences all around the world, about the uniqueness that makes us come together as a whole. And that is why diversity is so important to me, to the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and around the world.
To further celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, join me next week on Friday, Sept. 25 for Salsa Night, located at the House of Maize & Blue, in the Union at Dearborn from 7-8 p.m.