Courtesy of the Cornell Chronicle

Cornellians celebrate Latino Heritage Month at the unity dinner held in 2017.

October 16, 2019

‘Latinidad in its Many Forms of Expression’: Annual Unity Dinner to Commemorate Latino Heritage Month

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On Friday, October 18, students across Cornell’s campus will come together in Willard Straight Hall Memorial Room to celebrate the 27th Annual Latino Unity Dinner.

After the event’s debut in 1992, the Latina/o Studies Program began hosting the unity dinner annually as a tribute to Latino Heritage Month. Since then, the dinner has expanded to include more festivities and has become an essential student-driven event for the Latina/o Studies Program and the greater Latina/o community.

This year’s event, encompassing the student-selected theme “We’re Building the World We Need”, will feature performances and poetry by students as well as a presentation by keynote speaker, Dr. Calie Santana ’98.

Santana currently serves as the Chief Medical Officer at WestMed Practice Partners in White Plains, N.Y. After graduating from Cornell, Santana received her medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 2002 and then went on to complete her residency at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. She then received a Masters of Health Science in the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at Yale University.

Undergraduate co-chairs Claudia Ponce de Leon and Gabriela Mino organized the event.

“The unity dinner has been a major and highly successful event in our calendar for almost 30 years now,” Prof. Debra Castillo, director of Latino/a Studies, said. “As its name suggests, it brings our diverse communities together to celebrate latinidad in its many forms of expression.”

The dinner will also commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Latino Living Center. According to Castillo, the dinner will be an opportunity to recognize alumni who have supported an endowment for the LLC in order to strengthen the program for future students.

The endowment began in 2015 at an annual barbeque for the Latino fraternity Lambda Upsilon Lambda and was able to successfully raise $100,000, The Sun previously reported.

When asked what participants will take away from the event, Castillo expressed her hope that attendees will find inspiration from Santana’s words and become more educated on the diverse expressions which make up Latinx culture. Additionally, she hopes participants will have the opportunity to make some new friends.

Other events hosted by the Latina/o Studies program include the weekly Fridays with Faculty series, as well as the Latinx Thrive! series. Future events and more information can be found at their website.

The community event begins at 5:45 p.m. and is open to the public for $5 a ticket. The evening will kick off with a mocktail reception followed by a dinner beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Willard Straight Hall Memorial Room.