Tony Simmons

Students are marking Hispanic Heritage Month at Florida State University Panama City with a series of luncheons and events that will culminate in a celebration of the traditional Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead.”

“This year, we really focused on student-led programming,” said Kristal Greaves, student activities coordinator. “They wanted to do small events, tidbits throughout the month to show an appreciation of the culture and the students who identify as Hispanic or Latinx. To show them there is a place for them, they are seen and heard, and we want them to feel they belong.”

The events began Monday, Sept. 25, with a Latinx Luncheon in the Digital Design Studio (DDS) at 11:30 a.m. A series of videos discussing the history of Hispanic heritage played on the main screen in the DDS while students enjoyed a free meal from Barbaritos Southwestern Grille and Cantina.

“The luncheon we held on Monday was really promising in terms of getting students interested in more events that Student Affairs offers,” said student Lula Some. “Students were excited about the paper flags we had available for them to design, and it offered a reprieve between classes for them to grab something to eat, chat and then feel more energized to go about their day.”

Student Amanda Feist believes these kinds of events are important for the community as well as establishing connections with peers.

“I overheard a few people talking with each other about differences in culture depending on their nationalities, and I also heard some non-Hispanic students asking questions to Hispanic students,” Feist said. “This sort of information exchange is a good practice to have as we advance our careers and expand our horizons.”

On National Coffee Day, Sept. 28, Division of Student Affairs will supply breakfast churros to go with the coffee available at the Holley Building. The next event will be Monday, Oct. 9, with another informal Latinx Luncheon in the DDS, this time focusing on discussions of identity.

“A lot of students, especially this generation, grew up in a sort of identity crisis mode because they don’t know how to identify themselves,” Greaves said. “Am I Mexican? Mexican-American? Even the Afro-Latinx community have experienced that. Where do I fit in?”

Born in Mexico and raised in Atlanta, Greaves was a “heritage speaker” as a child, meaning she spoke English to help her immigrant parents assimilate, and they spoke Spanish so she would learn it. She said such cultural overlap is difficult for anyone to process and become comfortable.

“I almost kind of lost my language,” she said. “I could understand Spanish perfectly, but I couldn’t speak it without really having to think about what I was trying to say.”

Although Hispanic Heritage Month events run from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the Day of the Dead will be observed on Nov. 2, as is traditional. The event will include arts and crafts activities and food. 

“As soon as Oct. 16, we will begin putting up an altar known as ‘las ofrendas’— during Dia de los Muertos,” Greaves explained. “Traditionally, you would place offerings like pan dulce (sweet bread) or photos of your deceased loved ones. We will have an activity where they paint sugar skulls, but we’re limiting offerings to prepackaged things like bottled soda or candy.”

Throughout the observance, students may come by the Hispanic Heritage bulletin board on the second floor of the Barron Building to color one of the flags of recognized Latinx nations and add a selfie using the Division of Student Affairs selfie station.

For more information, contact Greaves at kg22t@fsu.edu or (850) 770-2194.