September 15 marks the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, often seen as an occasion to celebrate the life, culture and contributions of the 62.1 million Hispanics in the United States.
The month is celebrated until October 15 and recognizes Hispanic leaders and historic moments. Some take the opportunity to highlight discrimination against Hispanics while others celebrate their ancestors.
For as long as he can remember, Joel Camacho ended every September 15 by eating pozole and remembering life in Mexico with his family. The month marks a time for Camacho and his family to celebrate their culture.
However, for others, Hispanic Heritage Month erases their identity. Fernanda He was born and raised in Puerto Rico, but his parents immigrated from China. He said the label “Hispanic” did not fully describe or accept her.
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“Most often people think of Hispanics with white or fair skin during this month. They forget Asian, black and native Latinos like me,” he told USA TODAY.
So how is Hispanic Heritage Month celebrated and how can it be more inclusive?
Rediscovering its origins
Originally, Hispanic Heritage Month only lasted a week. In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a bill designating the week of Sept. 15 as “National Hispanic Heritage Week,” according to the Historian’s Office and the House of Representatives’ Office of Arts and Archives. the United States.
However, in 1987, Representative Esteban Torres from California decided that a week was not enough to celebrate. Torres therefore submitted HR 3182, a bill to expand Hispanic Heritage Week into a Hispanic Heritage Month.
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Torres reportedly said he wanted “the American people to know our heritage. We want the public to know that we share a legacy with the rest of the country, a legacy that includes artists, writers, Olympic champions and chefs. ‘business, government, cinema and science’, according to the Maison’s History, Art and Archives department.
Torres’ Bill is dead, but a year later Senator Paul Simon of Illinois submitted S. 2200, a similar bill, and then President Ronald Reagan brought it in. promulgated on August 17, 1988.
But why September 15? It is in memory of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua; each country celebrates its national independence on this date. Mexico celebrates its independence on September 16, Chile on September 18, and Belize declared independence on September 21.
“More inclusion is needed”
Hispanic and Latin populations are expanding in the United States, with the 2020 US Census showing 62.1 million people who identified as Hispanic or Latin American, representing 18% of the total population.
The census also shared the number of Latinos who identified as white rose from around 53% in 2010 to around 20% in 2020. Instead, those who identified as “other” fell from 37%. to 42%, and the share identifying as two or more races jumped from 6% to 33%.
As fewer Hispanics identify as white, Margie Del Castillo argues that Hispanic Heritage Month needs to amplify Hispanic and Latin black, native and brown voices.
“It’s time to disrupt the usual flow of Hispanic Heritage Month. There needs to be more inclusion. We need to talk about those we don’t usually see, like Afro-Latinas,” said Del Castillo, national director domain and advocacy at the Latina National Institute for Reproduction. Justice, USA TODAY said.
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Cynthia Rios and her family often ignore Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations. Growing up, Rios saw White Hispanics in plaster cast on every campaign of the month; she has never seen anyone who looks like her, both an Asian and Afro-Latina woman.
She said the month and most Hispanic celebrations often erase black, Asian and brown voices and experiences.
“If this month continues to focus only on the Spanish side of Latinidad and that term ‘Hispanic’, it will continue to alienate Latinos who do not identify as white,” Rios told USA TODAY.
Instead, Del Castillo argued that Hispanics and their allies should practice rejecting anti-blackness and embracing Hispanics who don’t fit into the “socially accepted” Hispanic box.
“More than a taco Tuesday”
Anthony Mora said that while it is difficult to recognize 62 million people in four weeks, he is grateful that Hispanic Heritage Month shed light on the community.
The University of Michigan associate professor said the month encourages other Americans to learn more about the culture and issues of the Hispanic community. However, instead of businesses and corporations creating events and sales throughout the month, Latinxes should be spearheading the celebrations.
“I would like to see more Latinx behind the content during the month. I would like to see more schools learning true Hispanic history, and I would like it to be more than a Taco Tuesday event,” Mora told USA TODAY.
Mora said that in a country where Hispanic voices are often silenced, conversations brought out during the holidays are “crucial.”
For Camacho, the month is the time for family reunions, meals and parties. He takes the time to educate his children about their Mexican ancestry and Latin American news. Her two daughters often dance the traditional Mariachi dance at a religious festival each September in Arizona.
Although the month has its flaws, Camacho said he was grateful to be recognized. Del Castillo agrees, saying she would take some recognition out of total ignorance. In the last few months of Hispanic Heritage, Castillo said she has seen immigrant rights, discrimination and women’s rights given a platform.
She hopes that with each year the vacations become more inclusive, more uplifting, and tell more Hispanic and Latin stories.
“I’m grateful for this vacation, I’m glad we have a month where people pay attention to our stories, but we need to keep doing more every other month of the year.”
Follow Gabriela Miranda on Twitter: @itsgabbymiranda