It’s not about validation; it’s about visibility. The Hispanic Heritage Month remembers, honors, and celebrates Hispanic Americans whose unique culture and heritage shaped the American society for the better.
"Hispanic" is a term that is both beautiful and complicated in equal measure. However, today we won't take a plunge into its various definitions, instead, we'll begin by asking ourselves one simple question: what role have Hispanics played in building the United States?
As Latin American ourselves, when we turn to the Hispanic community in the United States, we realize that while we share many cultural elements, it is the differences that we find beautiful. We are compelled to see how this community whose ancestors spoke our same language, built for themselves a new home and country.
The United States, despite the attempts being made to make it homogenous, enriches itself because of its diversity, and it is paramount to pay homage to those cultures and communities that have irrevocably changed the face of America's society.
So, which fields have Hispanic Americans excelled at? Where have they contributed to the most? Well, quite a few, once you see the giants who have left their mark, from Nobel laureate and physicist, Luis Walter Alvarez who took part in the Manhattan Project, to baseball player Roberto Clemente who was named MVP by the MLB in 1966, to name a few. So, it is natural that the US government would seek to recognize these contributions. This year, the Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates 50 years of visibility and appreciation.
A Month For Remembrance
Back in 1968, the festivity lasted for only a week, until it was turned into a whole month in 1987, as a result of a campaign led by Esteban Torres, a member of the House of Representatives during Reagan’s administration. Since then, the Hispanic Heritage Month takes place from September 15th to October 15th in order to emphasize the legacy and impact the Hispanic culture has had on the United States. These dates weren't chosen at random, the celebration begins during one of the most important months for several countries in America. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua proclaimed their independence on September 15th. Besides, let’s not forget that Columbus day takes place on October 12th, the day that got the ball rolling so to speak.
Hispanic American Culture and The Importance For Representation
Most of the times, Hispanics in the United States are associated with recent immigration, but in fact, Hispanic traditions and people have been present in the United States for more than 500 hundred years.
Hispanic Americans have been in the US since the first colonial pillar was erected: San Miguel Guadalupe (1526, Georgia) and St. Augustine (1565, Florida) are towns founded by the Spanish crown and the first European settlements in the US, they even precede Jamestown, which was founded in 1607. As the Spanish empire grew, so too did the Hispanic population, and in 1967, Americans of Hispanic descent represented 5% of the population. Today, the Hispanic Heritage Month sheds light on a community that now represents 20% of the population.
Culture is not static. Culture changes and grows.
How do we embrace and celebrate the Hispanic culture given its long trajectory? To begin with, this year’s theme is “Hispanics: One Endless Voice to Enhance our Traditions.” I believe that one of the most important elements of the Hispanic heritage is our sense of community and perseverance. Our eagerness, curiosity, and camaraderie towards others, invite us to find a common ground, so we can build new bridges that communicate and enrich our culture and ourselves. So, be eager, be curious, be attentive and listen to our stories, and listen to our voices. We must learn and love the many faces that built this nation and understand where their roots are found and where their future is heading. We need to listen to one another more so than ever, so we know who we are, where we come from in order to move into a better future.
If I were asked to describe the United States in a single word, I would dare to say that I have it easy: diversity. Diversity is what defines the US and celebrations such as this is a good reminder not to forget those who took part in building this country. The National Hispanic Heritage Month is just a reminder that we all have given something valuable and as such it should be honored and remembered. So check your calendar and attend your local events and immerse yourself in a community that is open to teaching others its rich history. So, learn more about your neighbor so you can learn more about yourself.
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