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Pandemic limits Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations for many

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Posted at 7:21 PM, Sep 15, 2021

Hispanic Heritage Month takes place September 15 to October 15, a time meant to recognize the culture and contributions of Latinos in the United States.

"It's important because we're here but it shows where our parents come from and to me, it's amazing that we get to celebrate two cultures and it's amazing that we get a whole month to celebrate," said Yadira Cossio, Santa Maria resident.

"In the U.S., it started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week and it expanded later in 1988 to Hispanic Heritage Month by Rep. Esteban Torres from California," explained Mario Espinoza-Kulick, Ph.D., Ethnic Studies Professor at Cuesta College.

There is a significance behind the date, September 15.

"September 15 is Independence Day for multiple Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua," Espinoza-Kulick said.

For Mexicans, Independence Day is celebrated beginning the night of September 15. However, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, most people aren't holding big parties.

"Many of our undocumented, farmworker communities that are of Latin American descent have been subject to outbreaks where they work and have been dealing with hospitalizations," Espinoza-Kulick said.

And that has hurt some local businesses, such as El Girasol in Santa Maria.

Owner Alejandra Vazquez says September 15 is usually the busiest day of the year but since the pandemic started, her sales have dropped 50% since only a few people are buying traditional Mexican dresses.

A couple of blocks down Main Street, the Salvadoran restaurant Las Comadres is also affected by the lack of Independence celebrations.

Owner Ana Soriano says she's had her business for 18 years and this year is quieter than in the past.

Soriano says she's seeing sales slowly pick up and she's happy to share with her customers the taste of iconic meals from her dear El Salvador.

"A lot of people marked on the census 'multi-racial.' About 33% identify as multi-racial. That's 20 million out of 62 million, so also recognizing there is a lot of diversity within our own ethnicity," said Espinoza-Kulick.

Yadira Cossio bought a special dress Wednesday and hopes to continue her parents' cultural legacy.

"I am proud to be a Latina and I'm proud that my kids are going to be proud as well," she said.