September 15th, 2018, marked the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, one of the many celebrations of culture we have here in the United States. The 15th is a special date which aligns with the independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, while being very close to the dates of independence for Mexico and Chile. This celebration of Latinx life will continue through October 15th, with many popular venues such as the Smithsonian Latino Center opening their doors to the public for inspirational conversations on Latinx history. Originally initiated as a one week celebration by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968, it was later extended to a month of recognition in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan’s term in office.
There is a strong Latinx community in the United States; a culture central and necessary to the success of our country. Yet, there is no denying that recent years have witnessed a rise of anti-immigrant sentiments which have festered and seeped into the country’s politics. Therefore, it is increasingly important for communities to stay open minded and promote heritage month events that can educate and foster inclusive discussions. Engaging in festivals of life, Latinx achievements, food, work ethic, culture, and more can help a wide variety of people understand that each person is a human being, no matter their origin. Many individuals, regardless of ethnicity, have overcome incredible odds to arrive where they are today.
The number of accomplishments and contributions that Latinx people have made to the public are endless as well as admirable. In 1987, President Reagan created the Hispanic Heritage Awards to commemorate the accomplishments of the Latinx community. Yet, even those who did not appear in these annual awards have made significant contributions to the community. Laurie Hernandez won both gold and silver in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio as part of the US gymnastic team. Lin Manuel-Miranda, largely known for creating and starring in the Broadway play Hamilton as well as In the Heights, is mostly of Puerto Rican descent. In 1993, Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman to go outer space, travelling on a nine-day venture on the shuttle, Discovery. She also had three optical-related patents with the United States. These are but a few of the many ways that Latinx individuals have helped the US with its work ethic, and helped us better our communities.
Hispanic Heritage Month is a great way for us to embrace another culture, and deep dive into learning. We can use it as a time to be thankful and grateful to those who grew up with a different background and brought new innovations to the US, or as an opportunity to share our own cultures with those interested. Either way, this is a great time for us to come together as sisters and embrace our differences. Happy celebrations!