Author: Nikhita Mudium
In a relatively quiet library with students studying in the middle of the week, sounds of young voices and intonations from faculty advisor John Maddox can be heard coming from the Palomitas conference room.
As a hotspot for student-led Hispanic heritage education at UAB, Palomitas focuses on film and other media that explore Hispanic communities around the world. Each semester, Palomitas organizes film nights that for anyone can attend. The showings focus on distinct parts and stories of the Hispanic experience from a variety of countries.
“The movies we share are generally almost always in Spanish with English subtitles, because we want it to be accessible for people who don’t speak Spanish,” said Jennifer Bloome, a senior Spanish major and the president of Palomitas. “This semester we’re doing a Cuban Film Festival. Cuba is a just beautiful country with a very complicated history, so we decided to focus on that this semester.”
The film is followed by analytical conversation about the topics present, the language and cultural nuances of the film. For some, the films can be supplemental to their academic education in Spanish.
“It’s a really good way to improve listening comprehension and learn cultural skills that aren’t taught in class, which is more technical,” said Faith Bynum, a senior Spanish major and Palomitas officer.
Even though the club focuses on Spanish-language films, students majoring in everything from neuroscience to language actively engage in the discussions. One past semester, the organization watched a movie about forced sterilization and enjoyed having both language and cultural perspectives, as well as scientific perspectives from nursing and biology majors.
“Movie nights tend to be a fun way to learn Spanish, and since the movies are from different topics, it’s easy to find something you’re interested in,” said Samantha Borglum, a sophomore biomedical engineering major and Palomitas Officer. “I really enjoyed a movie last semester that focused on Cuban music.”
Part of Palomitas’ goals is to promote cultural awareness to every student on campus, not only those studying languages but to a wide variety of disciplines. Hispanic Heritage Month is an especially important time for all Hispanic activists and cultural organizations to educate and honor their community. The world has become more interconnected than ever, and minority populations in the United States are surging. In fact, Hispanic and Latinx people are now the largest minority group in the United States.
“We want to celebrate those people that are Latino or [of]Hispanic heritage, specifically because these people do not have access to the same opportunities. There is a minority discrimination or bias that happens in the U.S., and we want to celebrate accomplishments and successful people, which helps empower younger Hispanic or Latino students,” said Bloome.
As a promoter of Hispanic Heritage Month, Palomitas believes there is no better way to celebrate than to take the time to learn and share the stories of the Latinx and Hispanic communities.
“It’s also important to expand who knows about Hispanic culture,” said Bynum. “It might be something that a lot of people might be interested, but they don’t know much about.”
Although Palomitas is not directly involved in activism, it encourages those interested to seek out opportunities for it across campus. According to Bloome, a big part of successful awareness and advocating for rights is including Hispanic and Latinx individuals that need that access to the conversation, as opposed to others making incorrect assumptions.
Palomitas has already seen “Fresa y Chocolate” and “Before Night Falls” this semester and look forward to their next event at Sterne 174: “Viva Cuba” on Tuesday Oct. 12.