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Monmouth College celebrates Latino Heritage Month

Jeff Rankin
Monmouth College will observe Latino Heritage Month Sept. 18-21, with a lecture, a documentary film and an open house for prospective Latino students and their families. Organized by the Office of Intercultural Life, all events are free and open to the public.
Felix Masud-Piloto, a native of Cuba and a professor of history at DePaul University, will open the observance on Sept. 18 with a talk titled “Uneasy Neighbors: Cuba-U.S. Relations from Jefferson to Obama.” The lecture will begin at 7 p.m. in the Pattee Auditorium of the college’s Center for Science and Business. Masud-Piloto, who specializes in the history of Latinos in the United States and the Cuban Revolution, earned his Ph.D. from Florida State University.
A 2010 documentary film titled “Operation Peter Pan: Flying Back to Cuba” will be presented Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Pattee Auditorium. Following the showing, a discussion will be led by Masud-Piloto and his wife, Maria Masud, who is a lecturer in DePaul’s modern languages department. Masud was one of 14,000 Cuban children involved in Operation Peter Pan, a controversial and covert program operated by the U.S. State Department to airlift Cuban children to the United States in the early 1960s. The film follows five former “Peter Pans,” who as adults return to their native country to explore their past and help bridge strong emotional and political divides that still affect them.
On Sept. 21, Monmouth will host Latino College Day, designed to provide general college information to the Spanish-speaking community of high school students and their parents while exposing them to a college campus. Held in the Center for Science and Business, the day will consist of a series of workshops for both parents and students in English and Spanish.
“Latino College Day gives current college students, parents of college students and the communities of western and central Illinois the opportunity to serve as a resource for future generations of college students and their parents,” said Carina Olaru, assistant professor of modern foreign languages.
Panels for parents will include current college students sharing their stories and parents of college students encouraging other parents. Also, a panel will be held on the cost of college and a breakdown of academic institutions. Students will have an opportunity to hear from a panel of successful Latino college graduates and current college students, and they can also hear about the importance of student organizing and networking.
Sponsors of the event include Wells Fargo Bank, Midwest Bank of Western Illinois and McDonald’s.
“At the end of the event, we will give the parents and students an opportunity to socialize and network with one another,” said Olaru.
More information is available from Olaru at 309-457-2347 or Ricardo Montoya at 217-320-5790.
Latino Heritage Month had its roots in 1968 when President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed National Hispanic Heritage Week. It was expanded by Congress in 1989 to a month-long celebration honoring the culture and traditions of Americans who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Sept. 15 was chosen as the starting point because it is the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries, while Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence on Sept. 16 and 18, respectively.