The nation celebrates Hispanics and their contribution to this great country during National Hispanic Heritage Month. The celebration started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period beginning on Sept. 15th and ending on Oct. 15th. Hispanics celebrate, but who celebrates with them? Who else joins in and recognizes the tremendous value of America’s Hispanic population?
The proclamation is an act of recognition, an encouragement for the nation to join in the celebration. Maybe a slogan would help. How about, “Have You Hugged a Hispanic Today?” I wonder why many Americans are not encouraged to participate with me in this celebration and make it “our” celebration.
I could write an article about all the accomplishments of Hispanics around the world, like Rita Moreno, the only Hispanic, and one of very few performers to have ever won all four major American entertainment awards: an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony. I could write about all the athletes and the medals, all the professionals leading in all their respective disciplines, and you may not join in and celebrate these major accomplishments with me.
Consider this; our celebratory month is not even a natural calendar month just as Black History Month is celebrated throughout the month of February. Hispanic Heritage Month is divided in two, because of inclusiveness. However, Sept. 15th is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for many Latin American countries such as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence on Sept. 16th and Sept. 18th respectively. Additionally, Columbus Day, also known as Día de la Raza, celebrated on Oct. 12th, falls within this 30 day period as well.
Let’s look closer at Columbus Day, Oct. 12th. Hispanics call it Dia De La Raza, interpreted — the “Day to Celebrate the Race.” This day was instituted to unite people and the countries that share a common language, origin and/or religion. Consider this date as an opportunity to stop and think that the American nations should be ethnically, culturally and racially plural, in other words we should be one. During this month we are one.
I ask you to join this dynamic celebration of Hispanics heritage. We are not talking about color, we are not talking about countries, and we are not talking about accents and divisiveness. No matter what I write and proclaim all the accomplishments of Hispanics, you may still overlook this celebration because you don’t understand the concept of heritage. Heritage includes values, work ethics, pride, family, artistry, thinking, spirituality, traditions, culture, language, verbal and textual history, dance, and always great food.
During the month, especially during the Dia de la Raza celebration, we celebrate our American Declaration of Independence which states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The truth is, the difference is not in the spirit of the celebration. When you look at the color of my skin, listen to my accent, observe my attire or wonder where I came from? Does it matter that, in my case, my birth certificate reads: U.S. Citizen? Does it matter that my brothers and sisters fought diligently side by side on the battlefields defending our liberties? Does it matter that each and every day we strive to be the best in our numerous occupations?
The spirit of the celebration is, whether here by birth or by immigration; we contribute immensely and are an intricate vital component of American society. We are not the problem, we are created equal, and we choose to pursue happiness just as all Americans do. Therefore, I ask you to please take a little time out and join this magnificent celebration of not just Hispanics, but of the human race. Take time and enjoy life and treasure the thoughts that unite us for they are mightier than those that divide us.
Moises Velez is editor of “¿Qué Pasa?” Call him at 678 267-3343.