Hispanic Heritage Month

In+this+photo%2C+taken+on+July+4th+2017%2C+there+are+ladies+who+are+dancing+Folkl%C3%B3rico%2C+cultural+dances+native+to+Mexico.+Folkl%C3%B3rico+dances+are+influenced+by+ballet+and+folk+culture.+Folkl%C3%B3rico+dances+originate+from+different+regions+of+Mexico.+Senior+Lexis+Meza+danced+Folkl%C3%B3rico+during+a+Multicultural+Assembly+at+UP.

Lizetag28, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

In this photo, taken on July 4th 2017, there are ladies who are dancing Folklórico, cultural dances native to Mexico. Folklórico dances are influenced by ballet and folk culture. Folklórico dances originate from different regions of Mexico. Senior Lexis Meza danced Folklórico during a Multicultural Assembly at UP.

Caitlynn Kelley, Journalist and Editor

Hispanic Heritage Month has returned again for another year. On September 15, 2020, Hispanic Heritage Month started again annually for the 22nd year in a row. It is celebrated from September 15  to October 15.  September 15  is also when Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica gained independence. Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated by those of Hispanic descent in the United States, to appreciate their culture, learn about their heritage, and to admire prominent Hispanic individuals that have made history. Many Hispanic individuals in the USA have made significant contributions to politics, social issues, science, and so many other fields of study and work. This month helps recognize their accomplishments and those individuals whose achievements that have been overlooked. 

Senior Lexis Meza gives information on Hispanic Heritage Month, “I have heard of Hispanic Heritage month, and I think it’s an amazing concept- plus I am Hispanic myself. This month is designated as the month everyone, especially Hispanics and Latinos, can come together and celebrate our culture while sharing it with everyone around us, educating the public about who we are. It’s like the Harlem Renaissance, but for Hispanics rather than African Americans. I myself don’t do much to celebrate it, but I love reading all the stories and articles that come out during this time. As a Mexican American I find it very important to learn about my culture even though I don’t live there.”

Sophomore Daisy Merino says, “Yes, I have heard of Hispanic Heritage Month. I know that it celebrates the contributions all the Hispanics made for the United States.”

Freshman America Cisneros didn’t know previously about the tradition, “I have not heard of Hispanic Heritage Month so I don’t know what it is. I am of Hispanic descent, my mother is from Mexico and my father is from El Salvador.”

Meza states, “My culture is extremely important to me; it’s an essential part of who I am. I’m Mexican, but I was born in America and spoke English as my first language. I am very proud to be Mexican, and I want to know everything about being Mexican. I am proud of how incredibly hardworking and supportive Mexicans are. They fight for life no matter the struggle, and it’s been seen so much throughout history. I also believe that this applies to all Hispanics. It definitely hasn’t been easy for us throughout history, and that perseverance is the thing I am most proud of. I show my pride through myself in a way. I like to educate myself on Hispanic (especially Mexican) history, food, traditions, and ancestry so that I can have educated conversations with the people around me about it. I also participated in a folklórico dance in the multicultural assembly at school a couple years ago.”

Concerning what her Hispanic heritage and culture means to her, Merino says, “My culture is important to me because it kinda makes me who I am. I celebrate Hispanic holidays.”

America’s Hispanic heritage also means a lot to her, “My culture is something very important to me, I celebrate it by doing Hispanic traditions.”

On being Hispanic in the United States, Meza elaborates, “Being Hispanic in the US can be challenging, but it also helps to give us a sense of community. I feel that being Hispanic in America strengthens the bond that Hispanics have with each other because we have that need to stick together and support each other. But our need for support comes from a lot of discrimination, prejudice, and inaccurate stereotyping. America has come a long way, but we’re nowhere near done. In fact, I feel like the discrimination has progressively gotten worse in the past four years, and if not worse, then at least much more public. I think being Hispanic has exposed me to witness and experience a lot more prejudice than I would have if I weren’t Hispanic. If I weren’t Hispanic, I think I would actually be blind to it. I have heard the stories of the obstacles and struggles my family has faced, and I know that as I go out into the world after graduation I will have to face that too. America has progressed definitely, but as a Hispanic I can see that there’s still a long way to go. 

Merino talks about how she has also heard stories about Hispanics being discriminated against, “My experience is nice but I have experienced discrimination because of my ethnicity. Being Hispanic, you hear a lot of stories about how things were never fair and taking from that it can alter my view a bit.”

Cisneros details the discrimination that her family has faced over being Hispanic, “The majority of us are treated poorly in many other states. I used to live in Oklahoma and I noticed that minorities were treated unfairly. My family was constantly being stared at for no reason.”

During Hispanic Heritage Month, many different Hispanic cultures are celebrated. With the celebrations come the traditions that are important to those that hail from a certain Hispanic country. 

Regarding celebrations or traditions in her culture that she enjoys, Meza states, “I love Día de Los Muertos because it is one of the oldest parts of my culture. It actually originated from Native Americans, or Native Mexicans as we call them. Also, the idea of making sure our loved ones are never forgotten is very close to my heart. Other than holidays, I am proud of our food. Hispanic food was meant for the hardworking and supportive. It’s always made in large quantities to make sure no one goes hungry, and a lot of our dishes were made specifically for the men that worked the fields or raised cattle and the women who supported entire communities. If you pay attention, much Hispanic food is easy to carry just with your hands and also easy to make in large amounts; well, that’s why.

Merino describes parts of her culture that she appreciates, “I am Mexican and Salvadorian, the Mexican side of my family celebrates all of the holidays and traditions like Dia de Los Muertos, Las Posadas, etc. but the Salvadorian side of my family doesn’t really have or celebrate any Salvadorian traditions.”

Cisneros is proud of Quinceañeras, which are a part of her Mexican culture, “I am proud of Quinceañeras in the Mexican culture.”

Meza gives details about Selena Quintanilla, Frida Kahlo, and César Chávez, prominent Hispanic figures, “I know César Chávez, a Mexican civil rights activist of the 60’s I believe. He gained national attention through all of his protests, his labor union, and his fasting. Frida Kahlo made a huge impact in the artistic world through her self portraits expressing her pain and struggles. I know she was in a bus accident when she was a teenager, and it left her with severe chronic pain for the rest of her life. I believe there are suspicions that she was a communist, and it has been said that she changed her name to sound more Russian [Frida changed her name, so she can sound more youthful]. She had a Hispanic mother and a German father I believe. Selena Quintanilla is one of the most famous Hispanic singers in history, along with Vicente Fernandez.” 

On Hispanic individuals that have made a huge impact on society, such as Selena Quintanilla, Frida Kahlo, César Chávez, Merino states, “I know Selena [Quintanilla] was an amazing and beautiful singer who changed the music industry in various ways, César Chávez fought for the workers, and Frida Kahlo had an impact on art.”

Cisneros states what she knows about Frida Kahlo, “I know of Frida Kahlo, she was a painter I think.

There have been many Hispanic figures in the United States that have made breakthroughs in their own separate fields. Some of them are overlooked or more well-known than others.

On September 15, 2020, Google honored Felicitas Mendez, a Puerto Rican civil rights activist, for her breaking barriers in a landmark Supreme Court case titled Mendez v. Westminster. The case made way for the historic Brown vs. Board of Education which declared segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional. Mendez’s case was based on how a public school in the Westminster school district rejected her children to come to their school because of their skin color and their ethnicity. In filing the case with other families, she aimed to stop the segregation of Hispanic students in public schools. The Supreme Court ruled in her and the other families’s favor. 

On Felicitas Mendez’s Supreme Court case accomplishment, Meza says, “I did not know this, but I am very proud that Hispanics fighting for an education helped inspire such a life-altering Supreme Court decision.”

Regarding the US and the recognition of Hispanic history, Merino states, “I did not know that. I kinda feel like America took a part of our history without giving recognition and that sucks. But at the same time it’s like Mexico helped America and I feel proud. Afterall, it was all towards a good cause.”

Jovita Idár, a Mexican activist and journalist, was a pioneer in women’s rights, education, and Mexican civil rights. She wrote at her father’s newspaper, El Crónico, and eventually wrote at El Progreso, where an opinion article criticized then President Woodrow Wilson’s decision to have soldiers at the Mexican border during the Mexican Revolution. Texas Rangers came over to El Progreso and wanted it to be shut down because of the article. Idár wasn’t afraid to stand against the Rangers and said that shutting down El Progreso would violate the 1st Amendment right to freedom of the press. She wrote about how women should be independent from men and she championed equal rights for women. She started a group called League of Mexican Women. During her involvement in the League, it helped to educate poor children and  advocated for lessons to be taught in Spanish and English. 

Meza believes that Idar shows pure Hispanic perseverance,I do know about her actually. I think she is the perfect example of Hispanic perseverance. We are determined to the point of pure stubbornness, but we never stop fighting. Jovita expresses those Hispanic values perfectly.”

Merino finds similarities between Jovita and Rosa Parks,I didn’t know that, that’s pretty cool. It reminds me of how Rosa Parks started the boycotts.”

Gwen Ifill was an Afro-latina journalist, who broke barriers for people of color, especially women of color, in journalism. Ifill found her love for journalism and in the news when she was nine years old. Gwen would constantly read newspapers and watch the news on television. Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill were the first female anchors to host a show on a major broadcasting network, PBS. She was the first Black female to moderate vice presidential debates. Gwen started working at different newspapers in the 1970s when Black journalists, especially Black female journalists, were scarce. She used to get letters from readers and one time a colleague addressed her with hate filled, racist language in one of them. Ifill’s childhood was filled with watching the news and she recalled when she was little and didn’t see any women or people of color news anchors. Ifill hoped for girls watching the news that they would see her and Woodruff reporting the news and that it would be normal for them to see women reporters on television. 

Meza talks about how it must have been more difficult for Ifill because of her mixed heritage,I did not know of her, but I know it had to be very hard for her. Not only was she a Latina, but she was also black. This mixed heritage tends to attract even more discrimination than being just one or the other would.”

This is a photo of Gwen Ifill in a photo for behind the scenes on her program, shared with her co-anchor, Judy Woodruff on August 27, 2012. Ifill was known to be a trailblazer, in regard to opening doors for women of color in journalism. She was the first Black Woman to host her own political talk show called, “Washington Week In Review.” In her commencement speech to American University’s School of Public Affairs, she told them that her goal and why she was interested in journalism was to broaden discourse in the news. Ifill reminded her audience to not be afraid of obstacles they may face and to be brave in their pursuit of truth and diversity of thought.
( PBS NewsHour, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Gwen Ifill was an Afro-latina journalist, who broke barriers for people of color, especially women of color, in journalism. Ifill found her love for journalism and in the news when she was nine years old. Gwen would constantly read newspapers and watch the news on television. Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill were the first female anchors to host a show on a major broadcasting network, PBS. She was the first Black female to moderate vice presidential debates. Gwen started working at different newspapers in the 1970s when Black journalists, especially Black female journalists, were scarce. She used to get letters from readers and one time a colleague addressed her with hate filled, racist language in one of them. Ifill’s childhood was filled with watching the news and she recalled when she was little and didn’t see any women or people of color news anchors. Ifill hoped for girls watching the news that they would see her and Woodruff reporting the news and that it would be normal for them to see women reporters on television. 

Meza talks about how it must have been more difficult for Ifill because of her mixed heritage,I did not know of her, but I know it had to be very hard for her. Not only was she a Latina, but she was also black. This mixed heritage tends to attract even more discrimination than being just one or the other would.”

This is a photo of Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic female justice on the Supreme Court. She is talking to participants for the John P. Frank Memorial Lecture at Gammage Auditorium in Arizona State University at Tempe, Arizona on January 23, 2017. She has stated that her education in Princeton University at the time she was admitted was possible only due to affirmative action because of the university’s preference for descendants of alumnus. Sotomayor graduated top of her class at Princeton. She has ruled in favor of affirmative action in the past.
(Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Sonia Sotomayor is the first Hispanic and Latina US Supreme Court Justice. She is also the third woman elected to the US Supreme Court. When she was young, she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and this condition helped to motivate herself to do all of the things that she could do, since she was afraid that she would have a short lifespan. She was accepted to Princeton University and she faced discrimination due to her gender and her ethnicity. She struggled at Princeton and had to work extra hard during the summers to make sure that she would progress academically. 

Meza says that Sotomayor portrays many Hispanic values, I think Sotomayor demonstrates the Hispanic values of persistence, hard work, determination, and integrity.”

This photo of Chang-Díaz was taken on April 30, 1997. When he was an astronaut at NASA, he noticed that no one else really looked like him or had the same latin heritage that he had on the space crew. He states that there were a lot of Hispanics that worked at NASA at that time, but none of them worked in the space crew. After he retired from NASA, his goal is to promote the idea that space exploration is for all countries, especially those in Latin America, to take a part in, not just wealthy countries. (NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Franklin Chang-Díaz is the first Hispanic astronaut and he is in the NASA Astronaut Hall of Fame. When he was a little boy in Costa Rica, he dreamed of becoming a US citizen and to travel in space. He arrived in the US in 1968 without any English skills and he graduated from MIT with a doctorate in plasma physics. He became an astronaut in 1981 and has spent almost 2,000 hours in space. Díaz participated in the Columbia, Atlantis, and Endeavour missions. Díaz retired from being an astronaut at NASA in 2005. He has taught at Rice University and University of Houston. 

Meza stated how she was glad that Diaz received a lot of recognition from the US for his work, I think it’s great that he managed to receive so much recognition and congratulations from the US. I also know that he had to put in twice as much work as everyone around him due to his mixed, non-white heritage, so it’s very admirable everything he was able to achieve.”

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the US to celebrate traditions and the culture in Hispanic countries. Also, it is celebrated to remember and recognize all of the Hispanic persons who have made great contributions to society. Among them being Felicitas Mendez, Jovita Idár, Gwen Ifill. Sonia Sotomayor, and Franklin Chang-Díaz.