Celebrating Hispanic culture

By Roxana Amparo, Associate Editor

In celebration of the contributions and culture of Latinos in the United States, Congress deemed Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month in 1988.

Celebrated throughout the nation with festivals, gatherings and even by wearing colorful cultural clothing, the month allows for the remembrance of escaping violence, poverty and coming to another country to start over.

The month coincides with the anniversary of the independence of five Central American nations from Spain 193 years ago on Sept. 15, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

“Latinos have contributed to the economic, political, social and cultural makeup of this country, since before it was this country. We had the first Spanish settlements in the 1500s,” Contra Costa College La Raza studies professor Agustin Palacios said.

Palacios said it is often forgotten that while the U.S. was at war defending the country during WWII, Mexicans worked as part of Bracero Program.

Bracero means manual laborer or one who uses his arms. The program was created through an Executive Order on Aug. 4, 1942,

when the U.S. signed the Mexican Farm Labor Agreement with Mexico.

Braceros worked on railroads, farms and sustained the U.S. economy during WWII, with minimal paying wages and long hours.

“More than four million people came to the U.S. to work in agriculture and on railroads. Mexicans fed not just the country, but also Europe in WWII,” Palacios said.

Latinos make up the second largest group in the U.S. and reached 58.6 million population in 2017 and continue to expand throughout the U.S., according to the Census Bureau. Between 2016 and 2017, the U.S. population increased by 2.2 million Latinos.

Undecided major Rosangelica Lopez said it’s important for today’s youth to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month within the Latino community for the sake of keeping historical and cultural roots alive.

“Hispanic Heritage Month is part of this country’s identity. It spreads awareness of our indigenous peoples in an informative way to peacefully empower the community,” Lopez said. “Personally, my family doesn’t celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, like we celebrate typical American events like Halloween and Thanksgiving. However, we do celebrate September by heart and remain mindful of our motherland.

For some, the month inspires dressing for the occasion by wearing colorful attire to celebrate the culture.

Psychology major Angie Zambrano said, “I celebrate by wearing my authentic Mexican shirt  along with huaraches (sandals) and braids. I think it’s very important to show how proud we are of our culture. Especially now with the political climate that degrades our people over and over again. We must stand up and represent.” It is important for Latinos to show they have pride for their culture for National Hispanic Heritage Month, Zambrano said.

While some use the Census Bureau 1970s issued term “Hispanic” to refer to a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American or Spanish culture, others embrace the term “Latino.”

From Mexican-American artist Selena Quintanilla, who even after death remains a role model to many people, to Mexican painter Frida Kahlo who was admired as a feminist icon, and even Nicaraguan-American Republican strategist Ana Navarro, there are many Latin idols.

“She’s (Navarro) so educated and she is not afraid to speak her mind and she does it in such an articulate way and she is so freaking passionate,” business administration major Natalie Reyes said.

“I feel like for the most part I do things that make me feel like I’m celebrating, in a way, every day because my culture is a part of my every day.”

Palacio said, “We don’t really need a month. We don’t need a designation. It’s nice, and it creates awareness in places where they wouldn’t do anything if there wasn’t a month.

“Part of the issue with having a one-month thing is that the government comes up with it. But I am sure Latinos wanted a month. There is a Black Heritage Month and everyone wants a month, it seems.”

Counselor Liliana Moncada said National Hispanic Heritage Month “affirms” the Latino culture and celebrating the month is important.

“I think a lot of moms, especially, are consumed with activities and social activities, so it’s hard to carve out that time to celebrate in unity.”