How to celebrate Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month respectfully
This year marks the 54th year the U.S. has officially recognized and celebrated Hispanic heritage. President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed the first Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, and 20 years later, President Ronald Reagan expanded it to a 30-day event. Since then, Americans have been celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15-Oct. 15, and acknowledging the stories, histories and cultures of Hispanic and Latinx individuals, as well as the contributions they have made, not only to America, but to the world. Political powerhouses like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor; art legends such as Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali and Jean-Michel Basquiat; acclaimed writers from Cervantes to Paulo Coelho; athletes, actors and musicians including Roberto Clemente, Laurie Hernandez, Rebecca Lobo, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jennifer Lopez, Celia Cruz, Joan Baez and Selena Gomez have brought attention to the Hispanic and the Latinx communities.
While those big names give everyone a reason to celebrate this month, how can those who, respectfully, have no connection to these communities, celebrate? With U.S. Census data showing the Hispanic and Latinx population reaching 62.1 million, we, as a country, should always acknowledge this diversity we are blessed with, and this month is a great time to start.
For starters, recognize Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month isn’t all parades and carne asada, which is delicious, by the way, from amazing local food trucks. There are many ways to recognize the efforts and achievements of Hispanic and Latinx individuals and their contributions. One way is to educate yourself. There is always more we can learn as a community. Understand how the month came to be—and why—rather than relying on misinformation and stereotypes. There are so many places that provide accurate information: Hispanic and Latinx museums, TED Talks (who doesn’t love a good TED Talk?), Library of Congress, your neighborhood library, documentaries, exhibits, etc..
If you are anything like me and love to read, one great way to understand more about the Hispanic and Latinx communities is by reading books by Latinx and Hispanic authors. One of my favorite books to date is <The Cubans: Ordinary Lives In Extraordinary Times>. Written by Anthony DePalma, this book explores a group of families and their day-to-day journey under constant crisis and focuses on individuals who live through what most of us cannot imagine.
Throughout the month, wherever you are, events are held in honor of Hispanic and Latinx communities. Attend what you can and support your communities. Can’t attend an event? That’s OK: Influencers and advocates alike educate on their social media platforms, which can be a great way to learn and participate. Making a financial donation to a Hispanic or Latinx nonprofit or volunteering your time are ways to show your support at whatever level is comfortable for you (as they say, every penny helps!). Support local Hispanic- and Latinx-owned businesses.
We should all learn and understand each other and in a respectful way. It only takes one step in the right direction to influence another person to do the same. So, go out and celebrate Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month and learn all you can. Just remember, you can always learn more.