Hispanic Heritage Month has arrived, and I have one question that haunts me. Why bother having a Hispanic Heritage Month when people with such anti-immigrant sentiment such as Donald Trump are leading the polls during the Presidential Primaries and gathering large masses of people that most likely feel the same way about immigrants?
Hispanic Heritage Month is the time period from September 15th to October 15th, which celebrates the contributions of Hispanic/Latin Americans to the United States while also celebrating their heritage and culture. This celebration was implemented by Lyndon Johnson in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week, but was later extended to a month-long celebration by Ronald Reagan, the dominant figure of the Republican Party in today’s politics, in 1988. Celebrating Hispanic Heritage has been an annual tradition in the United States for almost five decades, yet we see a growing anti-immigrant sentiment infecting the United States like a plague; but why?
Many people think that immigrants that come from Latin America are coming to the United States to invade and steal the jobs of U.S. citizens that were born here. This is an absurd statement. Jobs are not stolen from people. Jobs are given to people! The argument that immigrants are stealing “American” jobs baffles me because I cannot picture a world where a person with absolutely no connections, no money, a language barrier, and a system that treats minorities much different than those of the white majority can come to this country and steal your job.
These types of arguments and anti-immigrant sentiment infects the political conversations of the United States and is one of the reasons we need celebrations like Hispanic Heritage Month in this country. We need to help educate the public about all of the great contributions that Hispanic/Latin Americans have done for this country and the world. We, as a society, need to help educate the American public about the great influence Hispanics and Latinas have had in the United States throughout history. Here are some of the many examples of important Hispanic/Latina figures in the U.S.:
- César Chávez: created the United Farm Workers of America in order to improve the living and working conditions of farmers in the United States.
- Roberto Clemente: drew attention to the great talent of Latin Americans in Baseball and contributed greatly to humanitarian causes in Latin America.
- Rita Moreno: one of two (the other being Barbra Streisand) female artists to receive all four major entertainment awards; an Oscar, a Grammy, a Tony, and an Emmy.
- Sonia Sotomayor: the first Latina to be given a seat as a Supreme Court Justice of the United States.
- Pope Francis: born as Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina, he is the first Pope of the Catholic Church to be of Latin American descent.
Not only is it greatly important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States to educate the American public about the contributions of Latinxs and Hispanics, but it also benefits those US-born citizens that are descendants of Hispanic and Latinx cultures. A first generation American with Latin American roots may face constant challenges living in the United States, which may cause many self-esteem issues within them due to their ethnicity and heritage. It’s very rare for a household of a Hispanic or Latinx family not to celebrate their culture and heritage, but if one is bombarded with negative sentiments towards one’s heritage, it could have major repercussions on our society. The way that it is important for Americans to be exposed to historical figures like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln in order to feel proud of their history and culture, is the same as a Hispanic student being exposed to historical figures or entertainment icons such as Sonia Sotomayor, George López, and Sofia Vergara, etc., in order for them to feel proud of their culture and heritage.
Lets all stand and celebrate the contributions that Hispanic/Latin Americans have had in the United States and be proud and accepting of all of our neighboring countries to the south of the United States! Let us educate each other in order to deter the spread of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies with American politics and spread the positive aspects of different cultures coming into the United States that make us a better country!
“The greatest nations are defined by how they treat their weakest inhabitants.”
- Jorge Ramos