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Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month: YCP Students Share Their Cultural Traditions

September 18, 2023
Maria in the nursing simulation lab
Maria Cruz ’25, a Nursing major at York College of Pennsylvania

National Hispanic Heritage Month, which occurs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, celebrates and pays tribute to Hispanic American culture and Hispanic Americans who have played a role in creating positive change in American society. York College celebrates this month on campus, and three current York College students talk about their favorite cultural traditions and how they celebrate them.

Roger Casado Sanchez ’25

Roger Casado Sanchez ’25 is a Psychology major at York College. Originally from Arroyo Hondo in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, Roger mostly celebrates Christmas and New Year’s Eve/Day culturally, but he also celebrates his native country’s Independence Day.

“I come from a country that can be described mostly as a collectivistic culture. The way I remember my country is as a place where everyone is a family, helps each other, and the poorest person can give you the richest smile,” he explains. “Currently, I mostly only celebrate Christmas and New Year’s in my culture’s style, but traditionally when I lived there I would attend carnavales with my school, celebrate Independence Day, and Semana Santa with lots of dancing, good food, prayers, and other traditions that I do miss and remind me of my child self.”

Semana Santa, which is roughly translated in English as “Holy Week,” is a mostly Catholic Dominican religious holiday focused on the preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but other Dominicans celebrate it differently, Roger says.

“I emphasize ‘generally Catholic Dominicans’ because Semana Santa is traditionally about religion, but other Dominicans spend it differently by taking a vacation to a beach and eating habichuela con dulce (sweet beans), which tastes super good!” he says. “From my experience, Semana Santa was very much a tradition to share with the family.”

Independence Day is celebrated on Feb. 27 in the Dominican Republic. It’s highly celebrated in the schools, Roger adds.

“Regarding independence, many schools in the Dominican Republic (including mine) used to practice throughout the academic year to prepare to march in front of the statues of our founding fathers of the Dominican Republic while also singing patriotic songs, making music traditional to the Dominican Republic, and doing marching band performances,” he explains. “In my school, there were many shows made by the students and professors explaining and recalling the history of the Dominican Republic, and it meant students really got to know our history multiple times—at least once a year—reminding us of everything that has happened regarding the Dominican Republic's history.”

Maria Cruz ‘25

Maria Cruz ’25 is a Nursing major from York City, and a York College Community Opportunity Scholarship Program (YCCOSP) scholar, as well as a first-generation college student.

With a familial background in Mexico, Maria takes part in a number of cultural traditions, but her favorite is Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which typically occurs from Nov. 1-2.

“My culture is one of the things I take the most pride in. I also think that learning about the traditions of others' cultures is important. I try to take part in many traditions/celebrations that my family takes part in and have passed on to me, but my favorite celebration has to be Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead,” she says. “It is a celebration of life and death, where we honor our loved ones who are no longer with us but remember them as if they were still with us. We make ofrendas or offerings, which are beautiful collections of photographs or memories, and personal items that honor those who have passed on. Ofrendas are also decorated with marigolds, sugar skulls, colorful papel picado, and traditional Mexican cuisine. This is what the celebration is all about, and each ofrenda is unique and personal, which makes this celebration all the more special.”

Omar Castro ‘25

Omar Castro ’25 is a Business Administration major at York College. His hometown is Santiago in the Dominican Republic.

There are several traditions Omar takes part in, both as part of his culture and for National Hispanic Heritage Month.

“I proudly hail from the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean, where I'm deeply connected to the Spanish language and the cherished tradition of 'kissing hands.' This tradition symbolizes seeking blessings from our elders, not actually ‘kissing their hand,’ and embodies the strong family bonds that define our culture,” he explains. “[For National Hispanic Heritage Month], I normally gather with people from different Hispanic countries and cultures, where dishes from different countries get shared. We dance to different variations of Spanish music and tend to hit a pinata at the end.”

For more information about National Hispanic Heritage Month and related programming at York College, please visit the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion, located in the Iosue Student Union, Room 101.