Ashleigh Crouch, Correspondent
The month-long celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month at Jacksonville State University came to a close on Thursday at Heirloom Taco with authentic Mexican food, live music courtesy of the JSU Latin Ensemble and door prizes courtesy of Red Threads.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Jacksonville State University hosted a series of other events in recognition of the month, including a virtual event highlighting Latin American cuisine and Tacos on the Quad.
Food was provided at a discount for students at the niche taco restaurant, and there was a line out onto the sidewalk for a table. The music could be heard all the way to the center of the square and provided a fun and entertaining element to this night of celebration of Hispanic culture.
Both the owner of Heirloom Taco, Aurelia Ugarte, and the owner of Red Threads, Amado Ortiz, are alumni of JSU and spoke on what their Hispanic heritage means to them.
Ugarte, who owns the taco restaurant alongside her husband Shane, is from Mexico and moved to the United States at only three weeks old.
“I’ve always felt like, at least for me, that Hispanic and Latinx culture has to assimilate when you come to the United States,” said Ugarte. “I felt ashamed of my culture for a long time until I realized I could be Mexican and proud. Events like these are special because they shine a light on Hispanic and Latinx culture.”
Ugarte explained that she came to Jacksonville in 2012 because her husband’s family is from the area and that she never expected to go to college. Later, she earned a degree in hospitality and culinary sciences from JSU.
Ortiz stated that he was born in the Republic of Panama and moved to Alabama later in life and that being Hispanic and living in Alabama made him “different.”
“It wasn’t until after high school that I really came to embrace that part of my life,” said Ortiz.
Both Ugarte and Ortiz spoke on how proud they are of their heritage and how grateful they were to get to help host this event.
“My husband and I love Jacksonville, but we felt like the community was missing something,” said Ugarte. “That is what started us on our journey to opening Heirloom Taco.”