Eight national flags hung in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month were torn from the rafters of Peirce atrium over the weekend.
“This is different than ripping off a paper towel dispenser in the men’s bathroom,” Dean of Students Hank Toutain said. “In this case what was damaged or stolen is symbolically linked to members of our community.”
The student organizations Adelante and La Tertulia helped organize the month’s festivities, including the installation of 21 flags in Peirce. The purpose of the month is to recognize Hispanic culture and the contributions of Hispanic people to the United States.
The opening ceremony for Hispanic Heritage Month took place in Peirce on Monday. Various administrators spoke about the significance of the month, and organizers screened a film. Nonetheless, the flags’ absence dampened the occasion’s atmosphere.
“It took a little bit of the mood out,” said Esteban Bachelet ’16, co-president of Adelante and the Collegian‘s sports assistant.
“I was really impressed yesterday by the students,” President Sean Decatur, who was present for the ceremony, said. “I think that actually says a lot about the community that the thoughtless actions of one or a few doesn’t really impact the desire of the community as a whole to engage in very thoughtful celebration of diversity.”
Bachelet and Adelante’s secretary, Erika Cuevas ’16, who has written for the Collegian, believe the individual or individuals responsible for the thefts may have been under the influence of alcohol. While Bachelet does not suspect malicious intent behind the thefts, he still finds the act hurtful. “It should never have happened, because it’s more than just simple hooliganism. ﾅ Each flag has a symbolic value to the country and to people involved with that country,” he said. “While it’s a desecration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we won’t let that affect us, and we’ll persevere in a happy, cheerful mood.”
Adelante’s faculty advisor, Associate Professor of English Ivonne Garc?a, echoed Bachelet’s resolve. “I feel they can take our flags, they can vandalize our flags, but they can’t erase our presence in the campus, and they can’t erase or take away the strength of our culture,” she said.
This is at least the second incident since the event’s inception in which some of the flags have been taken. The last thefts occurred around 2007, according to Garc?a, after which Adelante moved them to Olin Library, where there are security cameras.
The former venue was not available this year, according to Garc?a. “We thought, well, if we hang them from the rafters, they will not be stolen, right? Well, we were wrong,” she said.
The organizers of Hispanic Heritage Month have not cut back on any of their planned programming. Garc?a said she would reorder the missing flags at some point, but perhaps not in time to replace those taken from Peirce.
Adelante as a whole, however, is redoubling its efforts to showcase the flags of Hispanic nations; the group plans to order a number of smaller ones to put up around campus, as Unity House did when their rainbow pride flags were stolen last year.
For Hispanic Heritage Month, Kenyon is welcoming Joan Soriano, the “Duke of Bachata,” to campus again. He visited two years ago, but owing to the work of Assistant Professor of Spanish Travis Landry, will be coming to Kenyon again later this week.
Today, Adelante is screening The Duke of Bachata, a documentary that follows Soriano in his struggles as a musician and his rise to fame. On Friday, Soriano will have lunch with students in lower Peirce and perform live in Peirce Pub in the evening.
The month’s remaining events are intended to promote other aspects of Hispanic culture. For example, Adelante has been working with the Snowden Multicultural Center to plan a Hispanic-themed dinner. Marco Saavedra ’11, an advocate for changing immigration laws to give undocumented young people a simpler path to citizenship, is also slated to visit on Oct. 3. To conclude Kenyon’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, on Oct. 15 there will be a reading of Latin-American literature in the Greenslade Special Collections and Archives. All of the aforementioned events are open to the public.
“Hispanic Heritage Month is going full-steam forward,” Garc?a said. “Let them take the flags; they can’t take us away.”