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Lillian Casillas
La Casa

George Vlahakis
University Communications

Last modified: Monday, September 13, 2010

IU marks Hispanic Heritage Month with visit by civil rights pioneer, films and festivities

Sept. 13, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Organizers of Indiana University Bloomington's 2010 observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month have planned a comprehensive calendar of events that includes lectures by a civil rights pioneer and an award-winning author and an annual favorite -- Festival Latino.

Among the visiting speakers will be Sylvia Mendez, who as a child was involved in a landmark school desegregation case, Mendez v. Westminster. The 1946 decision successfully ended racial segregation by law in California and paved the way for integration nationwide.

NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall's amicus brief in the case contained the arguments he would later use in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

Mendez, who later went on to earn degrees in nursing and worked in the field for 33 years, will present the lecture "Equality in Our Schools: The Case of Mendez vs. Westminster" at 7 p.m. on Sept. 20 (Monday) in Whittenberger Auditorium of the Indiana Memorial Union, 900 E. Seventh St. Union Board is co-sponsoring her visit.

She also will speak at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 21 (Tuesday) on "Latino Student Education: Then and Now" in Room 2277 of the School of Education building.

"Celebration and learning about important points in history or contributions to the USA by Latinos is something that we encourage individuals to do year-round, and especially during National Hispanic Heritage Month," said Lillian Casillas, director of La Casa Latino Cultural Center at IU.

"This year, we have the honor of hosting Sylvia Mendez. She was our first choice due to the impact she and her family have had in the area of education. Their courage to stand up and fight for equal access has affected not only Latinos but many others across the USA this last 60-some years," Casillas added.

Also speaking as part of the month's activities is Vicki L. Ruiz, an award-winning author, pioneer in the field of Chicana/Latina history and dean of the School of Humanities at the University of California Irvine.

Ruiz, the author of 14 books covering a broad range of Latino/Latina subjects, including oral narratives, gender studies, labor and immigration, will speak Sept. 16 (Thursday) at 4 p.m. in Room 310 of Ballantine Hall on the topic "Citizen Restaurant: American Imaginaries, American Communities."

Her books have brought attention to how Mexican and Mexican-American women have played leading roles in labor unions and how they navigated the multiple terrains of gender, race, ethnicity, class and sexuality from the pressures of Americanization and consumer culture, to the pressures from within their communities to maintain their cultural integrity.

Ruiz was the first Latina president of the Organization of American Historians (2005-2006), the American Studies Association (2007-2008) and the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians (2002-2005).

The events are free and open to the public.

Hispanic Heritage Month activities will begin with a reception Wednesday (Sept. 15) at 4 p.m. in the Grand Hall of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, 275 N. Jordan Ave., hosted by the City of Bloomington Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs, the IU Latino Studies Program, the Latino Faculty/Staff Council and La Casa.

Closing out the month's activities is Festival Latino on Oct. 2 (Saturday) in Bryan Park. The free music and cultural event will be held in conjunction with the Bloomington Multicultural Expo. More information about the Expo is available online at

Other events during Hispanic Heritage Month will include:

  • "Refugee Planters: Confederate Exiles in Mexico," a Latin American research forum with Matt Guterl, director of the American Studies Program at IU Bloomington, from 12:15 to 1:45 p.m. on Sept. 20 (Monday) in Collins Living-Learning Center, Room EO B01.
  • A screening of the 2010 Oscar nominee for best foreign language film, La teta asustada (The Milk of Sorrow), on Sept. 20 (Monday) at 6 p.m. in Fine Arts 015. The Peruvian film is presented in Spanish and Quechua, with English subtitles.
  • "Real Borders, Real Fences, and Real Laws: Immigration Reform," a talk about questions of the legality of the disputed Arizona immigration law, the future of similar laws across the U.S. and broader ideas about immigration in the 21st century. It will begin Sept. 22 (Wednesday) at 7 p.m. at the IU Asian Culture Center, 807 E. 10th St.
  • "Fiesta del Otoņo Fall Cultural Festival," from 10 a.m. to noon on Oct. 25 (Monday) at the Bloomington Community Farmers' Market. The event will feature music, dance, cooking demonstrations and children's activities.
  • "Meanings of the Independence Bicentennial in Latin America," a roundtable discussion featuring several IU historians, from 12:15 to 1:45 p.m. on Sept. 27 (Monday) in Collins Living-Learning Center, Room EO B01.
  • A screening of the 2010 Oscar winner for best foreign language film, El secreto de sus ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes), on Sept. 28 (Tuesday) at 6 p.m. in Room 245 of the Radio/Television Building. The Argentinean film will be shown in Spanish with English subtitles.
  • "La Cara Latina de Bloomington ("Latino Face of Bloomington")," an exhibit of photographs and personal stories that reveal the a people who are diverse in origin, ideas and dreams. It is on exhibit now through Sept. 27 (Monday) at the Monroe County History Center, 202 E. Sixth St.

For more information, go to