Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! One of our favorite months of the year. During the weeks between September 15th to October 15th, the country comes alive with vibrant celebrations, festivals, and other activities that pay homage to the rich and diverse cultures, histories, and meaningful contributions that Latin Americans have given to the United States. This year is no different, and, while at SDMN we make a point of celebrating and uplifting the voices of Alaska’s Latinos year-round, it’s exciting to see that there’s a spotlight placed on the community. After all, Latinos in our state contribute at every level to maintain Alaska’s resilience, determination, and uniqueness.
However, despite being such an important time of the year, there are a lot of misconceptions and a lack of awareness of the fascinating details that surround this month. Part of the reason is that it’s relatively new. The roots of Hispanic Heritage Month trace back to the turbulent era of the 1960´s when young Mexican Americans were demanding equal access to resources, government services, and education. These activists brought Mexican American and Latin American culture to the forefront of a time full of social change and, while it had existed in the country for centuries, Latino culture started to be more widely acknowledged. This was the context surrounding the decision of U.S. Representatives Edward R. Roybal and Henry B. Gonzales to champion a bill for a week-long observance known as Hispanic Heritage Week.
Later that decade, in 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the legislation into law, marking the birth of Hispanic Heritage Week. However, it wasn’t until 1988 that this observance was expanded to a month-long celebration from September 15th to October 15th, which was officially proclaimed by President George H. W. Bush in 1989.
One of the particular things about HHM is that, unlike other months that celebrate the different communities that make up the United States, it falls in the middle of the month. The reason for this is to highlight the independence days of different Latin American countries, including: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua on September 15th, Mexico on September 16th, and Chile on September 18th. The month is bookended by October 12th, the day when many countries in Latin America observe and commemorate the first arrival of the Spanish on to the continent in 1492.
While Latin Americans have been present in the country for centuries, it is a particularly exciting time to celebrate our community. In the last few years there has been an increase in the visibility of Latinos all over the country, from the popularity of artists like Bad Bunny and Peso Pluma as well as the visibility of actors like Pedro Pascal and Diego Luna, and the resurgence of Spanglish among Gen-Z. The field of science doesn’t stay behind either. Just last year, Katya Echazarreta was the first Mexican woman to go into space on board of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket. It seems that the world is starting to further appreciate the contributions, talents, and potential found in our community.
Furthermore, in Alaska, our community continues to grow. At slightly over 50 thousand people, we are the second-largest minority group in the state, and we have continued to make an impact both in Alaska and in the country as a whole. Physicians like Dr. Phillip Mendoza are helping to keep Alaskans healthy. In the field of sports, Obed Vargas makes amazing plays with the Seattle Sounders. Activists and community organizers like Kendra Arciniega and Jasmine Carter are hard at work to advocate for the vulnerable and change the world for the better. While there is a lot of work to do, especially regarding language access resources in the state, it’s time to celebrate so that we can be inspired to continue working hard because we truly are helping to build the future of our state.