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On the purpose of Hispanic Heritage Month

| Thursday, September 28, 2017

Starting on Sept. 15 and continuing through Oct. 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month. It had its start in the 1960s under Lyndon B. Johnson, who dedicated a week to celebrate the advancements and achievements of Latinos and Hispanics. Ronald Reagan extended the week to last a month, and since then, all presidents — including Donald Trump — have celebrated it. The unusual date of Sept. 15 was deemed to be worthy to be the start because it is the day of independence for numerous Central American countries. The celebrations continue, as many other countries also have their independence days in September, including Mexico’s on the 16th (no, Cinco de Mayo is not a celebration of Mexico’s independence day, or that of any other Latin American or Spanish-speaking country).

This month of cultural pride is an important way to celebrate the achievements of outstanding individuals who identify with this arguably broad and ambiguous group. The goal of Hispanic Heritage Month is to highlight the contributions American Hispanics have made, which according to the official website, includes not only Latinos of all backgrounds, but also those whose “ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America.”

A recent history of having their voices hushed has made the achievements of Hispanics that much more significant as they have fought against cultural opposition, language barriers, rejection and racism to achieve success in their respective fields. A notable Latino man would be Cesar Chavez, one of the most well-known advocates for migrant workers’ rights and coined the slogan “si se puede,” or “yes we can” in regards to achieving goals when the prospects seem most dire. Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic justice by heritage on the Supreme Court is another prime representative of Latinos. An example in an industry of more levity would be Gina Rodriguez, the main actress starring in the very successful TV series “Jane the Virgin.”

Even for the average person who associates themselves with one of these identities, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time for them to express their pride in their heritage and culture. Huge migrations from other countries in the Americas have led to a thriving cultural diversity in the U.S., where individuals are still able to identify with their cultural upbringing while integrating with American culture. The Spanish phrase “ni de aqui, ni de alla,” literally translated to “not from here, nor there” is something that many people find describes themselves. Straddling two cultures involves juggling the practices and traditions from their parents’ household with the culture at school and work; thankfully, the changing attitudes of today have allowed for people to identify however they wish. For example, Chicano culture is one of the most notable blend of cultures, associated predominantly with the Mexican-American community. The mixing of beliefs and cultures is to be celebrated, and Hispanic Heritage Month encourages people to share their cultural world with the community. Cities and universities around the country are holding events highlighting achievements made by Hispanics, particularly Latinos, in an effort to share their voices and experiences at a time of political uncertainty for many. While the present and the future are indeed times of worry and strife for many, celebrating the past history of those who have made strides in the progress of these groups is significant to continue their legacy and face adversity. It is important to be proud of the changes and influence Hispanics and Latinos have had on the community, and that no matter what field they are a part of, or culture they stand for, they represent Latinos everywhere, who will stand strong and continue to fight for their future in America.

Natalie Howe is a coffee aficionado, but it may be an understatement considering it is her main food group. Majoring in finance and environmental science, she enjoys talking about weather patterns and Latin American multiculturalism. Any inquiries and weather complaints can be sent to nhowe@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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