First proclaimed in 1968, Hispanic Heritage Month features many community festivals and activities organized to honor the achievements, culture and contributions of Hispanics, Latin Americans or Latinxs in the United States.
And I can think of a few ways we can all observe the month in order of increasing meaningfulness to us Hispanics.
The easiest way to celebrate is to sample the arts, foods and traditions of this largest minority group in the US – from the paintings of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera to the classic dish of rice and beans, from the driving rhythms of the hit-song Despacito to the timeless beauty of West Side Story.
We can also honor Latinxs for their contributions to our society, like Rita Moreno’s performances, Dolores Huerta’s labor accomplishments, Roberto Clemente’s baseball awards, or Arthur Shomberg’s Afro-Latino writings. And if I includes other famous and not-so-famous Hispanic ‘greats’ from South and Central-America, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico for their significant achievements in the media, arts, public service, sports, and all spheres of public life – the list would be long indeed!
We can also honor Hispanics this month by learning about the history of conquest, racism and US political interference in Latin America and the Caribbean Spanish-speaking countries. This includes the Mexican-American War of eighteen-forty six and the Spanish-American War of eighteen-ninety eight. Much of the Latino presence in this country is a result of this imperialism, a fact seldom considered in current immigration debates.
And last but not least, we can commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month by supporting the current struggles of Hispanics in this country. Most important among these is supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals’ path to citizenship. Also known as DACA recipients, many of them are Latinxs whose only home has been the US. While they were promised legal status, they are now being detained at the border, even as they carry proper documents and are gainfully employed.
The fact is that Hispanics are - and always have been - an important part of this country’s population. And I urge non-Hispanics to seize this opportunity to learn more about us, to respect our rights, and to extend to us the opportunities enjoyed by so many other immigrant groups and settlers before us.