September 15th marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month which focuses on Hispanic culture and pride honoring all the hard work and achievements of Hispanics. When Lyndon B. Johnson signed his Hispanic Heritage Bill in 1968, he did so saying that he wanted to “pay special tribute to the Hispanic tradition.” Hispanics have grown to be the largest minority population in the United States with roughly 60 million Hispanics making up 18 percent of the population. Hispanic Heritage month is a showcase of all their different cultures as well as a chance for America to demonstrate appreciation to all the Hispanic hard workers that contribute so much to this country.
This year Hispanic Heritage Month is even more significant since the pandemic has altered so much in our world. The Hispanic population in the United States has been hit very hard by the pandemic making up nearly 33 percent of the positive cases nationwide and nearly 34 percent of the deaths caused under the age of 65. Yet, in the midst of all this, Covid-19 has shown their resiliency from the hard workers in the fields that continue to work making sure citizens have food on their tables, to the many Hispanic essential workers out on the frontlines every day, down to the altering of traditional festivities. Hispanics have once again shown that they are resilient and are used to adapting.
When coming to America, they needed to adapt to a foreign land with a different language, culture, and traditions. Hispanics have managed to embrace and adapt to American life while keeping their culture, beliefs, language and traditions strong. Prior to Covid-19, usual celebrations have included large “fiestas”, concerts, festivals, and exhibitions of art, dance, and food where Hispanics would all gather to showcase the beauty of the different Latino cultures. Each Latin American country has its own traditions, food, music, and dance providing for a rich variety in a culture that is rooted in so much similarity focusing on family and religion. Whether a first, second or third-generation Hispanic, Latinos are proud of their heritage and continue to pass on these traditions generation after generation. Ask any Hispanic, “where are you from?” and proudly they will respond with their family’s country of origin. It is the best of two cultures, and Hispanics have found a way to blend the two. They are proud Americans and proud Hispanics.
Quinceañeras, which are large celebrations of a young girl’s 15th birthday, were not canceled, they just changed to zoom events and drive-by acknowledgments. The cancellation of the NYC Puerto Rican day parade didn’t stop Puerto Ricans. Instead, they held virtual celebrations honoring their culture and pride. Hispanics adapted to their circumstances and came up with alternatives. Latinos are extremely grateful for all this country has provided them while still remaining fiercely proud of their culture.
As a second generation of Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Chilean descent, I am an extremely proud Hispanic and American. I have grown up in a home where I have blended both my American culture right along with my Hispanic traditions. For me, Hispanic Heritage Month this year is even more significant than ever because it means that as we continue to grow as a country, we can also hold true to our culture and it’s traditions that unite us and continue to teach future generations the richness of our heritage. With so much hatred, division, and racism in this world, Hispanic Heritage month is a way to help bring our nation together and a perfect example of how immigrants have made America the great land that it is even in the most turbulent of times.