By Wendy Davila
When you hear Hispanic Heritage Month you may automatically gravitate towards thinking it's a month of celebrating Spain but in reality, this celebration encompasses 20 countries.
Hispanic Americans have made so many contributions to the United States throughout the years and in 1968 congress decided to create a week-long celebration recognizing all efforts that Spanish Speaking countries have made throughout the decades. After two decades of only having one week to celebrate, Congress decided to extend the two weeks into a month-long event. September 15th kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month which allows us to not only educate ourselves in the many diverse cultures that are a part of “Hispanic Heritage” but also immerse ourselves in it until October 15th.
The starting date was chosen specifically because Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua all celebrate their Independence Day on the 15th which gives us a chance to celebrate with them. There is a huge misconception that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day when in actuality it lands on the 16th of September followed by Chile on the 18th. The first week gives us a great opportunity to educate ourselves on their battles and struggles and later on empower these countries and celebrate by their side. Even though the week starts with a bang, 13 other countries await throughout the month for people to delve into their history and catch a glimpse of just how beautiful they are.
Hispanic Heritage month is just as important as Black History Month in February and LGBTQ Pride in June. In 2017 it was reported by the Census Report that the Hispanic population was the largest minority in the United States with 58.9 million people. When Hispanic Heritage Month was implemented, the educational celebration was more about Spain and the history of the country but as the years have passed it’s opened up to appreciation for all Spanish speaking countries. Being Hispanic American gives us the best of both worlds. Sometimes you are seen as “too American” and on other days you seem way too “cultured”, there is never a happy medium for society. Although this month allows for those who identify in the community to learn more about their heritage and culture and bring their friends along for the journey.
In America, a “traditional” way of celebrating Independence Day is by having cookouts with their family and fireworks at sundown but it’s a little different in Hispanic countries.
A bell is rung at the National Palace by Mexico’s president at 11 p.m. the eve of Independence day which is then followed by all the governors reciting “El Grito” which became the speech that rang in the final separation from Spain and led to their freedom. Fireworks are being lit as the phrase “¡Viva México! ¡Viva México! ¡Viva México!” is being yelled with pride throughout the country. Many Latin countries have their youth participate in cultural dances and on the day of their independence they parade through the streets with music, food, and overall joy for their home. Hispanic Americans hold pride for their culture and it’s time we join in and help appreciate and uplift them.
The next time you sit down to watch Netflix after a hard day of work, remember that we wouldn’t be able to have that luxury if Guillermo González Camarena, a Mexican inventor hadn’t come up with the color television transmission system. Or when you look up at the stars remember that Ellen Ochoa, a Hispanic woman, spent nearly 1,000 hours in space and when she came back she became the co-inventor for three patents which pushed NASA and space exploration forward.
Some important artists to appreciate during the month would be Shakira, Ritchie Valens, Selena and so many more. These artists fought for not only the acceptance of their cultures but they educated people through their music and rhythm. Culture is alive within their lyrics and it’s evident every time they would perform.
Some ways you can get involved with Hispanic Heritage month are:
Looking up local museums that showcase Latino art. MOLAA in Long Beach, California hosts online showcases that display Latin American art in all its glory
Many Latin American dance studios have been announcing their showcases to be displayed on Zoom such as “Ballet Folklórico de Los Ángeles”
Watch documentaries that highlight Hispanics, culture, etc. here are some recommendations; Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle, Immigrant High and Latin Music USA
Take a Zoom dance class, whether it be Salsa, Cumbia, Bachata, Tango, or anything that makes you want to groove along
Browse through Pinterest and find a delicious Hispanic recipe that you can later indulge in
Research the story behind the pinata, build one, and then break it with your friends and family
It may seem as if every Spanish speaking country holds the same culture but each is so diverse and unique. They each have their own battle wounds with triumphant stories to tell. Hispanic Heritage Month was created to bring appreciation towards Hispanic Americans; so sit down, educate, and appreciate.
Wendy Davila is an editorial intern who is knowledgeable in all things environment, sustainability and arts and culture.