Opinion: Is it Really Hispanic Heritage Month?

Seniors in Mrs. Razik’s Spanish 3 class working on their Hispanic Heritage projects.

The Bennett Opinion

While most people think of October as the month of Halloween and colder weather, they may not realize that between September 15- October 15, it’s Hispanic Heritage Month.

Back in 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Hispanic Heritage Week bill (P.L. 90–498) into law. It became official that starting the week of Oct. 15th, Hispanic Heritage would be celebrated across the country.

This week long celebration was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a month, starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It begins in the middle of September as it is the day Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala celebrate independence. Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, 18, and 21, respectively.

The purpose of Hispanic Heritage Month is to celebrate and acknowledge those who are Hispanic or are of Hispanic descent and their contributions to the world around us. 

As Ms. Sammarco, a spanish teacher at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA), says Hispanic Heritage Month is “to compartir, to share with the other Hispanics and to invite other non-Hispanics to celebrate.”

Although Hispanics are the largest minority in the United States, with a population of 59.9 million, many feel that even though this month was meant to celebrate them, it was pushed aside or swept over. 

“People know that it’s something, that it’s celebrated sort of, but not as much as it should be. It’s not fully celebrated, it’s more just acknowledged,” Sofia Ballinas, a Mexican-American senior who attends FSSA, said.

Valerie Rodriguez, a Colombian senior at FSSA, echos this statement.

“There needs to be more awareness for it or some type of recognition, like hey, this happening,” she said.

Although this celebration is a great opportunity for Hispanics to connect back to their roots and for others to learn about their culture, more often than not Hispanic Heritage seems only to be recognized when convenient. 

“You hear about it in school and you might read about it in the subway, but other than that I don’t think there is much awareness to it unless you live in a Hispanic community,” Ms. Sammarco adds.

Presidential candidates send tweets about Hispanic Heritage Month, but one can truly wonder if they will fight for hispanic rights. And the president himself acknowledged Hispanic Heritage month with a statement on September 13, 2019 saying: “Hispanic-American men and women embody the American values of devotion to faith and family, hard work, and patriotism through their countless contributions as leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, and members of our Armed Forces.”

This script Mr. Trump follows seems ironic since there is a crisis with detention centers abusing Hispanics trying to immigrate to the U.S., while more and more are finding it harder and harder to do so through any means.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students are afraid that they will be deported at any moment as President Trump tries to strike down the program. Hispanics must overstay their visas or immigrate illegally due to the legal process being so long and nearly impossible to actually receive the results they need, taking years upon years to get any response.

Many brands, like Dole and CVS, issued commercials and ads that targeted Hispanics during this month. However, brands “celebrating” Hispanics truly make it seem like they only want money, not championing for what is truly important like the injustices still occurring.

For one month out of the whole year, people ally themselves with Hispanics, but will forget about them for the rest of the year. If we truly want to celebrate Hispanics, we must learn about them and meet them in the middle, not just when it seems convenient. 

– by Laura Gallegos ’20