For me, Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate the many contributions Latinos and Latinas have made to all facets of American life.
It is also time for Americans to come to grips with their past. As the United States expanded westward and built an overseas empire, it invaded and annexed territories where Hispanics were the majority population. Integrating these populations, as well as the newer waves of migrants coming from Latin America and the Caribbean, has not been easy. The many political, cultural, and socio-economic challenges and injustices these people have endured should force us to think of our failings and commit to working towards building a more tolerant and inclusive society.
Hispanic Heritage Month is furthermore an opportunity to critically reflect on what we mean by “Hispanic.” It is important for all Americans to recognize the diversity of the Hispanic community. For example, we, including Latinos and Latinas, need to acknowledge the contributions and struggles faced by members of the Latinx community who have indigenous roots or who are descendants of African peoples. Americans have to understand that many cultures and traditions exist under the “Hispanic” umbrella and that many Hispanics while identifying with this term, prefer to be recognized as Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cuban, Mexican, Venezuelan, Colombian, or from one of the many countries and cultures located in Central or South America. The Hispanic tapestry is complex and diverse, and while celebrating our common heritage is important, we should also use this month to showcase our differences.
While we commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s not use the opportunity to just celebrate all the contributions the Hispanic community has made. Let us also use this time to ask difficult questions about our past and to critically reflect on what it means to be Hispanic in a rapidly changing society. Our goal for this month is to come together, learn from each other, and agree to work together for a more equitable future that celebrates, encourages, and embraces difference.