Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations start at the University of Central Florida this week with a variety of events that honor the Hispanic culture.

The Hispanic American Student Association (HASA) will team up with the Multicultural Student Center, Colombian Student Association and other student organizations to observe the history, culture and other contributions Hispanics have made at UCF and in the community. Nearly 20 percent of UCF students are Hispanic.

Events start Wednesday with a kick-off parade around the Student Union that will begin at noon. Activities will conclude at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18 with a “Pachanga” Hispanic orchestra concert at the Reflecting Pond.

Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés, HASA’s faculty adviser and an associate professor of English, said Hispanic Heritage Month has special importance this year because of the 500-year anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s landing in Florida.

“It is important to recognize and acknowledge the contributions of Latinos to U.S. culture and history,” Milanés said.

HASA has worked to promote Hispanic culture at UCF and the Central Florida community since 1985. Along with orchestrating many events celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, members of the group enjoy socials, movie nights and other activities.

UCF’s Hispanic Heritage Month activities are free and open to the public. Highlights include:

  • A “celebración de la cultura” will feature food and dances from various Hispanic cultures. The event will begin at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, in the Ferrell Commons Auditorium.
  • Pulitzer-prize winning author Junot Diaz will discuss his new book, “This is How You Lose Her,” starting at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 1, in the Ferrell Commons Auditorium.
  • A roundtable discussion about the successes of Hispanic women will begin at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7, in the Cape Florida Ballroom, room 316A, of the Student Union. Panelists include former first lady of Puerto Rico Lucé Vela Gutierrez , actress Rachel Campus-Duffy, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando chair Diana Bolivar and Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie.
  • Bring your best moves to “So You Think You Can Rumba?” at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10, in the Pegasus Ballroom of the Student Union. Attendees will learn about the culture and origins of different Latin dances and how to dance each of them.
  •  Jose Mallea, former campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, will join former Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando chair Ramon Ojeda to discuss immigration reform and entrepreneurship at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, in the Pegasus Ballroom of the Student Union.
  • WUCF TV also will begin airing the six-episode PBS documentary series, “Latino Americans” in English every Tuesday at 8 p.m. through Oct. 8. The series highlights the history and contributions of Latinos and how they have shaped the United States during the years.

    Spanish-language airings of the series will run on V-me WUCF Channel 24.4 at 10 p.m. on Friday nights from Sept. 20 to Oct. 4.

    More information about WUCF TV and how to watch is available here at http://www.wucftv.org/.