The University of New Mexico is inviting the community to a series of events commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month.

 Since 1968, Hispanic Heritage Month has been celebrated in the U.S. to recognize and honor past and current Hispanics, Latinxs and their diverse cultures, eventually growing from a week to a month from Sept. 15-Oct. 15.

It’s an especially important time of year for UNM, as a Hispanic-serving institution with over 11,000 students enrolled this fall who say they are Hispanic.

In addition to expanding on history, the Department of Chicano and Chicana Studies, Latin American & Iberian Institute, and Southwest Hispanic Research Institute are showcasing captivating art, poetry, and music, with the help of the Mellon-funded NM Humanities Now! program.

One of those many beloved performers includes Max Baca, the founder of Los Texmaniacs.

“For us it's a time to build relationships with other departments and programs, but we also get the opportunity to highlight very well known scholars, artists, and writers,” said Irene Vasquez, the chair of Chicana and Chicano Studies.

Baca performed a series of songs with his nephew Josh Baca for university faculty, staff, and students, as well as members of Keith Sanchez ‘s music class from Robert F. Kennedy Charter School.

Students were able to see the Grammy-award winning Tex-Mex artist, and ask questions about differentiation in types of music, as well as instruments like the bajo sexto and accordion. 

“Music is an everyday part of life. We also use music amongst those of us who are not professional musicians to build unity, to build spirit, to build community,” said Vasquez.

It’s critical she says to recognize this, as Spanish speakers and Spanish surnamed peoples have a long history of music production. It stretches back centuries, beyond the United States, and through Middle America and South America.

That’s why these events are not just for the University, but the greater Albuquerque community.

“The events are also for people who may not identify as Latino or Latina but who have an interest in understanding our complex society. People can learn things like new language or culture or history about people that they live with, people who are their neighbors,” she said. 

Vasquez believes through that study, through that research, through that greater understanding we can have a much more inclusive and pleasant society to live in.

Right now, that feeling of inclusivity is especially meaningful to the student body.

“It's important for us to recognize that not all students–not all individuals feel like they immediately belong in the institutional culture,” she said.

This focus has led to programming throughout the year, to highlight the arts, politics, culture, history, and literature of Latina and Latino cultures.

Students and staff in this department also host their own musical collective, an event centered on learning from each other, sharing culture, and having fun.

“The students experience college a little bit differently. It makes them feel good about who they are, and it makes them feel like they belong.” Vasquez said.

You can find a full list of events for Hispanic Heritage Month on the Department of Anthropology’s website. You can also enjoy year-round events on the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies website.