Vandals Destroyed A Hispanic Heritage Month Mural At Duke University And Here’s How Students Fought Back
Hispanic Heritage Month, also referred to as Latinx Heritage Month, is from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 every year. It is meant to give recognition and praise to the accomplishments that Latinos have made in the U.S. The current political climate has been hostile to the Latino community and a recent even at Duke University shows the necessity of proudly owning ones Latinidad.
Latino students at Duke University wanted to show off their Latino pride for Hispanic Heritage Month.
Mi Gente is Duke University’s official Latinx student organization, which celebrates and organizes events around Hispanic Heritage Month. According to Sujeiry Jimenez, a co-president of Mi Gente, one of the events is “Pintando Murales” where students participate in the bridge painting.
“This mural functions as a sense of pride and acknowledgment of the Latinx community at Duke. It is used as a way to highlight the beginning a time when our culture is celebrated nationally,” Jimenez says. “It also serves as a way to publicize Latinx Heritage Month to the Duke community and extend an invitation to our programming for the month.”
The mural was defaced less than 24 hours after it was completed.
Jimenez says that the group was unaware of any negative sentiment toward the mural. The mural painting is something that the organization does every year. According to Jimenez, there has never been a negative reaction in the past.
FBI data shows that hate crimes have risen since President Trump won the 2016 elections. The NAACP has credited the increase in hate crimes to Trump’s own legacy of division and racism. According to reports, Trump’s name has been invoked by people carrying out hate crimes against different communities.
Jimenez isn’t completely surprised by the vandalism, however.
The increase in hate crimes across the nation have been tied to increased negative rhetoric about immigrant and minority communities. The Southern Poverty Law Center directly blames President Trump’s rhetoric about minority groups as the cause of increased hate crimes. Communities facing the surge of hate-related violence share the same sentiment.
“Fears of incidents like this happening were very present in our community as other minority communities at Duke had already been victims of targeted crimes,” Jimenez explains. “I felt devastated but not completely shocked. Incidents like this had happened at Duke not long before this. Before classes even started this year, the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture was also the target of an act of hate speech.”
The students, rather than shying away, repainted the mural as an act of fighting back against the hate.
Jimenez says it only took a few hours to report the vandalism, send a message to organization members and reconvene to fix the mural.
“As a both a leader and member of the Latinx community it was very powerful to see the response not only from our own community but from the larger Duke community,” Jimenez recalls. “We, as a community decided to write over the spray paint, but not with the intention of covering it up. We wanted to send a message of resilience and show that we could rise about the hate. Then, we recreated our mural to the side of where the original one was.”
They decided to send the vandals a message of their strength while letting the hate show.
Jimenez says the group choice the phrase, “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” because of it’s cultural significance. For many Latinos, the Mexican proverb has been in their homes and at their demonstrations.
“We have to keep fighting. Engage and empower your communities. Show up and stand up for your community. This is all of our fights,” Jimenez says. “This is going to be a long fight, but we must work now so that future generations can continue and build on the work we start today! We must create space in spaces that were not created for us. Póngansen las pilas y échenle ganas, la lucha sigue.”