By Alejandra Hernandez
Hispanic Heritage Month began as a weeklong celebration in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson, who stated in his proclamation, “Several of our States and many of our cities proudly bear Hispanic names and continue Hispanic traditions that enrich our national life.” We should remember the importance the month holds for the Hispanic community.
“The word Hispanic is often associated with Spanish-speaking people, but for me, it’s about the celebrations, the music, the cultural clothing, as well as the food that everyone loves!” said Katherine Catinac, a Physical Education major. “I love the unity within my people. If you were to go to Sunset Park, which is primarily a Hispanic neighborhood, you will always feel this welcoming feeling, everyone is so kind and open to help out.”
The celebration is a month long, from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, which happens to be around the national independence day of many Spanish-speaking countries—bringing the community closer to one another. It’s a great opportunity for non-Hispanic groups to see the difference in the cultures.
Catinac, the daughter of a Mexican mother and Guatemalan father, expressed she’s more involved with Mexico’s culture. She and her family celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day (Sept. 16) and Guatemala’s (Sept. 15) by going to Sunset Park, where many food vendors gathered.
Although many Latinos, specifically Mexicans, were doubtful of the label Hispanic, they supported it because it was a step closer to being recognized and having a spotlight. In addition, many Hispanics are all about being together to become stronger as a community.
“Within the Hispanic community, I look up to Sonia Sotomayor because, as a Hispanic woman, she has surpassed many obstacles to get where she’s at. My community is so looked down upon that when other Hispanics are recognized, taken seriously and most importantly respected, it makes us proud,” said Anilu Campos Gonzales, a senior and Health Science major.
“This is because we are strength, we are perseverance, we are dreamers, we are achievers, but most importantly, we are un solo corazòn,” she continued. “All we want is for others to see that we can achieve just as much as the highest population, and there are many of us who are becoming part of that statistic of change because of people like Sonia Sotomayor, who show us that it’s possible.”
In 2020 the college enrollment rate for Hispanics was 60 percent, showing the progress the community is making.
“I celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month not just in September and October,” said Gonzales. “But every day, by advocating for those who can’t do it themselves and are part of my community.”
Gonzales expressed that her meaning of being Hispanic included being able to think in two languages and not shying away from her roots. She also emphasized how being bilingual opens doors for Hispanics and allows them to be more open-minded and creative, which strengthens their mind.
Hispanic Heritage Month is a great way for many people to learn about the historical struggles of Chicanos, Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, DACA members, and many other groups.