Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month
Each year, Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15) recognizes the contributions and celebrates the cultures of more than 57 million Latino Americans, accounting for 18 percent of the U.S. population. Notably, Sept. 15 marks the day of independence for five Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile and Belize also celebrate independence days within the heritage time-frame.
The history and roots of Latino Americans are as diverse as their makeup. The 2010 Census Form asks those of Hispanic or Latino origin to identify as Mexican, Mexican-American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin, according to the parts of the world from which their ancestors hail. Latinos today inherit their background from America’s indigenous peoples, as well as Spanish explorers and Africans who were brought to the “New World.”
Hispanic cultural traditions, values, beliefs, aspirations and life pursuits are at the heart of the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. I grew up in a small Native American village in Southern Arizona that was part of broader, culturally-rich community and fostered a deep appreciation for this diversity. We were surrounded by mostly Chicano neighborhoods, and often people identified members of my tribal community as Hispanic, Latino or Mexican. To us, this was not a slight. Many of our people spoke Spanish, as well as English and our Yaqui ancestral language. For as long as I can remember, our Hispanic neighbors have been present during our tribe’s ancestral ceremonies.
As we interacted, we introduced ourselves by way of name and community. Understanding one’s self and identity doesn’t separate us from others but rather helps us understand that the roots of our Hispanic brethren are interwoven with our Native history and ancestry. The sense of connectedness and pride in family, community, culture and self only contributes to the greater good for community and country.
In my view, the timing of celebrating our Hispanic ancestors in Sept. and Oct., and our Native heritage in Nov., is no coincidence. Dia de Los Muertos, a tradition honouring our ancestors and ancestry since time immemorial, is celebrated in festivals throughout Oct. and Nov. by both Hispanic and Native peoples in the U.S. and other countries. These celebrations are often known as Day of the Dead.
I’m honored to celebrate the countless contributions of the Hispanic peoples and I hope you will join me in championing these diverse cultures as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.
P.S. We’d like to give a quick shout out to Steve at hispanicheritagemonth.org for sharing their digital image!