Take the official US government website, www.hispanicheritagemonth.com, who posted the 2009 official Hispanic Heritage Month theme as a month devoted to “recognizing the strength and hard work of Hispanic Americans, whose zeal for family and country has helped shape society” a moving statement about the intended meaning and purpose. I haven’t seen the 2010 theme yet but why stop at only one month of recognizing such formidable contributions. Why not recognize the contributions of Hispanic Americans yearlong? Or better yet, let’s be proactive and celebrate and educate others about our contributions as Latinos on our own ongoing basis. But if as of late, you’ve been feeling that merely being Hispanic or Latino is not popular at this time, imagine how the Arizona Hispanic community might feel with the passage of AB1070*. Agree or not, one thing is certain: people are worked up about it. I cannot help to ask myself, ‘How will Arizona celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month this year?’ What’s going on? The media pundits keep telling us that the real issue is a failed immigration system.
So, if we know that we have a ‘broken’ immigration system creating more and more challenges and reactive state laws-why not remind the elected Washington politicians, who nimbly shift the blame on each other’s political party’s for their combined failure to act on our behalf, that they will be held accountable, and that Hispanic families will no longer pay the price for their inaction. What does that have to do with Hispanic Heritage Month? Much, if distinctions are to be made about which Latinos are worthy of celebrating? Can we tell them apart, the worthy, and the unworthy? The surnames, a typical ethno-identifying tool, presents surnames such as Lopez, Gomez, Fernandez, Martinez, etc. but are they second, third, fifth generation? English dominant? Of fair complexion? College educated? Working class? Spanish-dominant? 1st generation? Where did they originate? Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala? Are they a homogeneous group? How do we tell them apart from the rest of America? Tough challenge. And how, or who do we celebrate as ‘true’ Hispanics? Will it be those that can prove their residency status or will we continue to send and receive mixed messages about the diverse and rich make up and full contributions of all Hispanic Americans?
Will you celebrate the month? And if so, how? Perhaps we can all start by putting a human face to it. By volunteering in our communities and getting involved in the public discussions taking place throughout. Latinos are part of the fabric of this nation. Latinos contribute to the economy by starting and operating successful businesses that create jobs. Many Latinos volunteer in their communities, and hold important posts in corporate America, law enforcement, the military, academia, arts, and many other professions and occupations. They are great fathers, mothers, friends and neighbors. Latinos also pick the food on our tables, and raise our children, and fight for this country with pride, and fierceness, and loyalty like no other. That is something to celebrate year-round. As we seek and demand solutions to the many challenges our nation faces, perhaps this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations could be themed around the current issues of importance to the quality of life of Hispanic Americans; themes that we know well: equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
As an American, a Latina-a Mexican-American, first generation, bilingual, bicultural and deeply rooted in this great nation; every year, every day, and every moment, in some way I celebrate my Hispanic Heritage because I see it in the faces of my children, my family and my own. It matters because as an immigrant nation—not doing so would be, well, un-American.
About the author: Linda Caballero-Sotelo is a freelance writer based in Southern California. She may be reached at: Lsotelo@toltecmedia.net