September 15 marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, a celebration of some of the culture, food, music, and languages that make the U.S. so special and diverse.
“One of our tias loves to make tamales because they have their special way of making it,” said Nick Peinado, who is proud of his Mexican heritage. “We love our family’s tamales.”
From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15., Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated across the U.S.
“Actually has its roots back in the 60s, the late 60s. It started as Hispanic Heritage Week. It was just a few days,” explained Allan Hancock College Professor Marc García-Martínez. “Then-President Johnson was the one who established it. It was actually proposed by a former city council member named Edwardo Roybal from Los Angeles.”
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Why is Sept. 15 an important date to remember?
“Because several nations from Central America celebrate their independence. These nations are Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala,” said Cal Poly Professor Fernando Fabio Sánchez. “Back in the 19th century, these nations belonged to Spain.”
Mexico celebrates its Independence Day on Sept. 16 while Chile does so on Sept. 18. This recognition comes after decades of discrimination...
“There was always an influx going across the border, especially in the 1920s,” said García-Martínez. “They brought in a lot of workers from Mexico to help with agriculture, which of course is still going on now but even back then they repatriated them after the work was done.”
And efforts to force assimilation into American culture.
“Kids were not allowed to speak Spanish in school and that is the reason why many Mexicans in the U.S. lost their Spanish,” added Sánchez.
That sense of oppression fired up the Chicano movement in the 60s.
“We have many political leaders like Cesar Chavez who was the leader of farmworkers. We can also mention the walkouts in east LA,” said Sánchez.
Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta were both trailblazers remembered for their “Si, se puede” or “yes, we can” phrase.
“You'll find a lot of unionization and a lot better working conditions than there were back in the 60s,” said García-Martínez.
There are 62.1 million people in the U.S. who identify as Hispanic, according to the 2020 census, but "Hispanic" is still a debatable term.
“Mostly a governmental term, and it is a problematic term in some ways to some Latinos and some Chicanos because the term itself is rooted in a Spanish ancestral connotation,” added García-Martínez.
Latino is often seen as more inclusive because it welcomes Brazil where Portuguese is the main language spoken. Latinx denotes gender inclusivity, which is why it has become more popular recently.
“Hispanic, Chicana or Latina, it’s not one monolithic culture. There are various ethnic, cultural strands within this larger Raza, our collective race, and it’s important to keep that in mind because there are different traditions,” said García-Martínez.