Hispanic Heritage Month

Evan Lara, Staff Reporter

Hispanic Heritage Month started on September 15 and ended on October 15. But what really is Hispanic Heritage Month all about? It started off as Hispanic Heritage week in 1968 because of President Johnson, and was officially observed for a month in 1988 thanks to President Reagan. The dates were chosen because Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua gained independence on September 15. Mexico on the 16, and Chile on the 18. It isn’t celebrated in Latin or Central America, only in the U.S. Why?


     Because of the influence Hispanic people had. There are widely known Hispanic figures in U.S. history because of their achievements. For example, almost everyone has heard of Cesar Chavez, Frida Khalo, J.Lo, Selena, and others, because they’ve contributed to and changed our culture. That is why the U.S is placing a spotlight on hispanic people.


Cesar Chaves was a Mexican-American civil rights activist who fought for the rights of agricultural workers, most of whom were hispanic. He unionized them and organized strikes. 


     Frida Khalo changed how art was viewed with her self portraits. They were depictions of herself as she was, with body hair and all. Her most recognizable feature was her unibrow. She was regarded as one of the leading feminists at the time because she rejected society’s expectations of how a woman was supposed to be.


     Selena Quintanillo was one of the biggest celebrities of her time. She was a Mexican- American  pop star, known for singing romantic songs in North America. She influenced many artists and changed the U.S by introducing a new style of music, in another language. Her death was mourned by thousands of people and even then, her death launched J.Lo, of Puerto Rican descent into the spotlight. She was an inspiration to many and she will be remembered as one of the greatest singers.


     J.Lo is quite a recognizable figure in Hollywood. Her career started off after she portrayed Selena in a movie. She paved the way for other Latinas to make names for themselves in the industry. She showed the world that Latinas could be as good as other actresses and she wowed people with her multiple talents.


     Hispanic Heritage Month is an aim to try and highlight the work done by hispanic people and how they’ve contributed to our society.


     But if that’s the case, why is it harming the community?


    While Hispanic Heritage Month is supposed to be all about doing good for the community, it might actually be hurting it. Our community of people from or of Latin /Central / South American descent is so complex and different that some argue that the word ‘Hispanic’ is damaging. Especially if you look at the origins of the word. ‘Hispanic’ comes from the word ‘Hispania’, aka Spain.


    It has conquistador roots attached to it, something that people don’t like to be reminded of. Even more so for the indigenous communities whose people were killed off from diseases, converted to catholicism, had their riches stolen and had their history erased by the Spanish conquistadors. And that’s not even counting France and Portugal’s exploration trips. 


     Grouping 19 countries together and assuming everyone is the same is an understatement. Every single country below the U.S has their own rich culture and history, with some similarities yes, but even the food is different. A tamale from Mexico and a tamale from Guatemala are different in taste and texture.  A tamale in Mexico is wrapped in a corn husk and left to cook, whereas a chuchito from Guatemala (what we call a tamale) has the filling precooked and is wrapped in banana leaves. And a tamale/chuchito can be filled with anything, even made sweet, but will usually be filled with chicken and sauce. 


     The countries have different geographical landmarks, elevations and climates. Peru has a city with the highest elevation in Latin America, and Argentina has a city with the lowest elevations in South America.


     Some countries don’t even speak Spanish, Brazil being a prime example. They speak Portuguese because Portugal conquered them. But yet, they are considered Latino. While that’s not the country’s fault, it does highlight another key point.


     Some countries are considered Hispanic, while others are considered Latino (or Latinx, a term which is also up for debate). The official definition of Spanish is “relating to Spain, its people, or its language”. So one could also claim that Spain, the Americas, the Pacific Islands and the Philippines could also be considered as Hispanic, because they were once under Spain’s rule. But they could be wrong. And Portugal and France’s colonization of countries has created confusion on what people identify as, and the rubric for considering which term a country falls under. So for now, people can choose what they want on the U.S Census. The data changes after every update to it, so they can’t specify who should choose what. As a rule of thumb, you should ask what someone prefers to be called by. Because some people have preferences while others do not.


     But despite all this confusion amidst ourselves, we’re proud of our roots. Ask anyone of (what’s considered) Hispanic descent where they came from, and most of the time, they’ll answer proudly. Some like to brag about their roots, some know their whole family tree, who came from where, when and how, and others will simply say the country. Even despite our differences, we’ll come together to defend a country if someone talks smack about it.


    Another thing that helps people come together is teachers. Language teachers in particular. After interviewing Mr. Christensen, he said that Hispanic Heritage Month should be about spreading knowledge about the work done by all types of people. He said that as a language teacher he is already promoting love for the culture, countries and knowledge of them.


     Now if everyone could take time to learn about what makes our countries unique and similar, lots of people could realize that being Hispanic is such an important part of some people’s lives. 


     DIversify your narrative by learning a fact or two about each country, search up some myths and legends, try listening to some songs in Spanish, watch a show with subtitles. Even watching a movie in English can help, Coco and the Book of Life are inspired by Day of the Dead. In the Heights is a musical (and now a movie) about Puerto Ricans in New York. Watch some documentaries about life in other countries, and all of this can and will help you connect with more people, to understand their culture and to acknowledge their achievements.


     HIspanic Heritage Month ended on the 15th, but its message continues to be true every other month of the year.