Latino Parent Group welcomes new SSC Vice President with Posada Navideña

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and bids farewell to Art and Design Professor

by Melanie Jongsma

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (December 8, 2019) – The MB Financial Room at South Suburban College (SSC) was festooned with seven-point piñatas and intricate hand-made paper stars in preparation for an evening that would combine elements of a traditional Mexican posada with an administrative welcome and a faculty farewell.

From left: Enrique Gutierrez, Estefania Sevilla, Fabiola Vargas, and Rosie prepare the room for guests. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

The December 6 Posada Navideña was hosted by Latino Parents United for Success, a group that collaborates with the Latino Center at South Suburban College to ensure success particularly for Hispanic students. Group member Liliana Nuñez emceed the event and explained that by helping families navigate the registration process and other paperwork, and by organizing events that feature familiar traditions, the group provides a safe environment for Hispanic students and helps promote Latino culture to the broader community.

Explaining the posada

Lansing resident Martha Vargas is a member of the Latino Parent Group, and she introduced guests to the various elements of a traditional Mexican posada, using a slide presentation.

Martha Vargas (standing) explains the Mexican tradition of the posada. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

“The Posadas are popular festivals of Mexican origin,” Vargas explained. “These festivities remind people of the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where they looked for a place to stay and wait for the birth of Jesus.”

In Mexican neighborhoods, people reenact that pilgrimage, standing at the door of the posada host and singing to request posada, or lodging:

En nombre del cielo (In the name of heaven)
os pido posada (I ask you for lodging)

pues no puede andar mi esposa amada (because my beloved wife can’t go on)

The host then responds with a verse, first denying the request:

Quí no es mesón (There is no lodging here)
sigan adelante (keep going, move along)
yo no puedo abrir (I cannot receive you)
no sea algún tunante (You might be a robber or scoundrel)

The full ritual involves several verses of request and denial before the host finally realizes who is at his doorstep and grants them welcome. In previous generations, particularly in smaller villages and rural communities, the ritual would be carried out nine times, on the nine nights before Christmas, with nine different homes serving as host.

The seven-pointed piñata has special symbolism. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Vargas also explained the symbolism of the seven-pointed piñata—the seven points represent the seven deadly sins. Children beat the piñata to defeat sin and receive the blessings (candy).

Guests of honor

Following the introduction to the traditional posada, Liliana Nuñez returned to the podium to introduce Estefania Sevilla, a Graphic Design student at SSC, and a student of special guest Professor Sergio Gomez. An instructor in the Art and Design Department, Gomez is retiring from teaching after 14 years at South Suburban College. “We will miss him very dearly,” said Sevilla, “but we are so proud of him because he is going to pursue his art career full time. He represents what we all want out of art—a full-time profession.”

Professor Gomez expressed his appreciation: “It’s been a pleasure for me to work with so many students and seeing them grow and get on their path to success.”

Professor Sergio Gomez expresses his thanks to the group. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Latino Liaison Enrique Gutierrez then introduced Dr. Deborah Baness King. King became Vice President of Student and Enrollment Services at South Suburban College in July of 2019, after 13 years in various roles at Triton College in River Grove, Illinois.

“I very much appreciate being included and having the opportunity to be part of this night,” King told the group. She acknowledged that the evening was particularly meaningful because it brought back memories of the years she lived in New Mexico, raising her young family and teaching at the University of New Mexico.

Dr. King thanks the Latino Parent Group for including her in the posada. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Traditional food

The evening ended with generous portions of classic Mexican fare, enjoyed with conversation around the tables.

Volunteers from the Latino Parent Group serve classic Mexican entrees to guests. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
A second table was loaded with homemade desserts. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Ponche con Piquete is a hot punch containing a blend of seasonal fruits, cinnamon, and in some cases a shot of brandy or rum. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Atole is a thick hot drink similar to hot cocoa. The base is milk, and corn flour is dissolved into it and flavored with chocolate and special spices. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Guests took advantage of the opportunity to socialize over food and beverages. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

South Suburban College is located at 15800 South State Street in South Holland, Illinois. Information about the Latino Center is posted on the SSC website:

South Suburban College is located at 15800 South State Street in South Holland, Illinois. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)