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Slate of events focuses on Hispanic Heritage

By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

The third annual Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration in Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties will kick off with a Mexican Independence Day celebration held from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15, in the Grandroom of the A.K. Hinds University Center at the Western Carolina University.

The event will feature Axel Lluch, director of Hispanic/Latino affairs for the N.C. Office of the Governor, who will deliver the keynote address. There will also be traditional Hispanic food, live music, dance and theater. Sept. 15 also is Independence Day for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. The Independence Day celebration is co-sponsored by Western Carolina University’s Office of the Provost and Division of Student Affairs.

This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month will focus on the theme “A Time to Honor Contributions and Achievements” with a month-long series of lectures, discussion panels and cultural lessons held Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Topics will include the history of immigration, Latino politics and education, Mexican popular culture, Spanish theater and Latin American artifacts. Two other highlighted events will be open forums on immigration policies and Latino education.

“This is a chance to gain recognition for the increasing Hispanic population in the area, promote an understanding and appreciation of the Hispanic culture, and to cultivate positive attitudes toward cultural diversity,” said Patricia Hackett, a Jackson County Bridges to Community Multicultural Group member, Western Carolina University Spanish professor, and Panama native organizing the event.

In addition to the Mexican Independence Day event, the following events are planned for the first two weeks of the celebration:

• Saturday, Sept. 16 — Second Bilingual Health Fair, First Presbyterian Church in Franklin, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. For more information, call 828.369.9955.

• Monday, Sept. 18 — “Living La Vida Loca: Traveling in Mexico with Students,” presented by Dr. Anne F. Rogers, A.K. Hinds University Center at Western Carolina University, 7 to 8 p.m.

• Monday, Sept. 18 — Salsa dance lessons, A.K. Hinds University Center at Western Carolina University, 7 to 10 p.m. For more information, call 828.227.3622.

• Tuesday, Sept. 19 — “International Day of Peace,” open forum and update on the national immigration debate, A.K. Hinds University Center at Western Carolina University, 7 to 8 p.m.

• Wednesday, Sept. 20 — “Bienvenidos: Welcome, Newest Tar Heels: Twentieth-Century Federal and State Policies as Causes in the Influx of Mexican Immigrants to North Carolina during the Period 1990-2006,” presented by Western Carolina University student Anne Powell, Killian Building Room 104 at Western Carolina University, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

• Friday, Sept. 22 — Latino Cook Out and Wellness Night, Community Table in Sylva, 6 to 9 p.m.

• Sunday, Sept. 24 — “Latinos and Politics in Haywood County,” Lake Junaluska Latino Center, 7 to 8:30 p.m.

• Monday, Sept. 25 — “Migrant Workers in Western North Carolina,” presented by Jennifer Minor, Director of Vecinos Inc., Cullowhee Methodist Church, 7 to 8 p.m.

• Monday, Sept. 25 — Salsa dance lessons, A.K. Hinds University Center at Western Carolina University, 7 to 10 p.m. For more information, call 828.227.3622.

• Tuesday, Sept. 26 — “Immigrants’ struggles in the U.S.A.: Past, Present and Future,” presented by Andrea Arias of the Center for Participatory Change of Asheville and other local community members, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Sylva, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Please note this presentation will be given entirely in Spanish.

• Wednesday, Sept. 27 — “Exploring the Economic Impact of the Hispanic Population on the State of North Carolina,” presented by Dr. John D. Kasarda and Dr. James H. Johnson of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Kenan Flagler Business School, Renaissance Hotel in Asheville, 12 to 2 p.m. Please note this presentation/luncheon requires advance registration. Visit

Organizers are still in the process of finalizing details for Hispanic Heritage Month activities and are seeking volunteers from the community to assist in planning and implementing events. The Jackson County Bridges to Community Multicultural Group Hispanic Heritage Month committee will hold its next meeting from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, in Western Carolina University’s McKee Building, Room 130.

Hispanic Heritage Month sponsors include the Jackson County Arts Council, Solaridad Latino Outreach of Franklin, The Community Table of Sylva, Lake Junaluska Latino Center, Guadalupe Café, Smoky Mountain Vicariate Roman Catholic Church, N.C. Bankers Association, Jackson County Department of Public Health, Wal-Mart, and Western’s Women Studies and Women’s Center.

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