Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight: Angela Clavijo

Hispanic Heritage Month is an international celebration held from Sept. 15-Oct. 15. This month, we’ve asked faculty, staff and students to share what their Hispanic heritage means to them, as well as how the culture has shaped who they are and how others can learn from their experience.
In this Q&A, Hispanic mentor and instructor of social work Angela Clavijo shares her background, culture and what Hispanic Heritage Month means to her and her family.

Q: What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
A: To me, Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of who I am. As a Colombian-American, I take pride in my cultural heritage and think that it’s important to acknowledge and honor not just what we consider to be the important contributions to our society from the Hispanic community, but the unique values, diversity, strengths and vibrancy that this community brings to everyday life.  

Q: How has this culture shaped who you are today?
A: Everything about me has been formed by my Colombianidad. From being born in Colombia, to summers spent with my abuelitos, to the music and food and language in my home during my childhood, my beliefs and values have been deeply shaped by my cultural heritage and my experiences as a Latina woman. I am grateful to have learned at a young age the importance of family, friendship, intergenerational relationships and living in community with others as well as how to love and care for people well. I think that these aspects of the Hispanic culture have enriched my life and have given me a strong sense of meaning and purpose. Angela Clavijo

Q: What is something that you wished others knew about Hispanic Heritage Month?
A: I think it’s important for people to recognize that the Hispanic community is not a monolith, and every cultural heritage should be celebrated. The language, food, music, traditions and customs represented are just as diverse as all of the people who encompass this community. It is worth getting to know and experience all of the richness that you can find within the Hispanic community. This month celebrates the contributions of people who represent that diversity, whether that’s people from Mexico to Guatemala to El Salvador to Ecuador to Chile or from any of the other nations recognized during this month. Allowing yourself to learn from the innate wisdom of these populations will not only expand your worldview but also help you keep moving forward in inclusive celebration of all diversity. 

Q: What advice (both personal and professional) would you give to young Hispanic/Latino students?
A: My advice to young Hispanic/Latino students would be to let go of any guilt you feel for the sacrifices your family members made for you to get where you are. You get to go after your own personal dreams and still honor those sacrifices in a way that feels best to you. Carry the dreams and the sacrifices and the histories of your ancestors with you as you forge your own path. Always remember that your cultural heritage is a strength in your life and you don’t have to reject it or leave it behind in order to find professional success. I would also say that as a student, it’s so important to connect with faculty members who understand where you are and what it’s like to navigate higher education as a Hispanic/Latino. There are resources for you to use that can provide you with the guidance and support you need while on your journey as a student. Seek out that support anywhere you can find it. 

Q: What are some cultural traditions that you hold close to your heart?
A: Some of my favorite cultural traditions involve holiday celebrations. My favorite memories are from when I’ve been in Colombia celebrating Christmas and New Years with my family. In Colombia, they celebrate something called Día de las Velitas every Dec. 7. It’s a day to commemorate the Immaculate Conception and to signify the beginning of the Christmas season. People all over the country light candles and place them on sidewalks, balconies and windowsills. You can walk down any street and find hundreds of lit candles. It’s a beautiful celebration, and even when I can’t be with my family, I light a few candles in my home here to take part and feel close to them. 

Q: What are you most proud of when it comes to your Hispanic heritage?
A: I am most proud of the legacy of my ancestors and being a part of an indigenous lineage of strong, resourceful, and powerful people who overcame a lot of adversity and struggle. My Colombian heritage means so much to me, and I believe that my culture represents strength, love, hope and beauty. My Colombianidad taught me to celebrate people well, to do everything with meaning, to find deep joy in everyday moments, and to dance as much as possible. I am proud to be the granddaughter of my abuelitos and to have the opportunity to carry on our family’s legacy through my own life and work.