Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month
“To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life” – Pablo Neruda
Hispanic Heritage month kicks off on September 15, and for a month we actively celebrate and commemorate the innumerable influences and contributions which Latinos have provided to American society.
For me, this time is a celebration of who I am, where I came from, and how I am being of service to my community. To be Latina for me is to breathe; I do not know how to be anything other than who I am and proud of where I came from.
My mother was Chilean and my father Puerto Rican, both varied and rich cultures. My childhood was a fusion of language, food, dances, and history. I grew up listening to and speaking Spanish, and eating the delicious bounty of flavorful native dishes my Puerto Rican Abuela (grandmother) made for me.
I fell in love with the language before I even could comprehend it, as my mother put me to sleep by reading Chilean author, Pablo Neruda. Memories abound of learning to dance the Argentinian tango with my grandmother or my father teaching me about our native indigenous Taino history. I, like many before and after me, am proud of my
culture and my history.
Latinos are a melting pot of culture, language and history as diverse and unique as the countries we represent, from Peru to Santa Domingo, we all chant the same thing when we are asked..we are LATINO.
Proud and present, we stand united and one community. It is that familiarity with one another which binds us. United States Past President George W. Bush once said: “Not all of the contributions made by Hispanic Americans to our society are so visible or so widely celebrated. However, Hispanic Americans have enriched our nation beyond measure with the quiet strength of closely knit families and proud communities.”
I invite you to use this wonderful time of the year to explore and learn more about us– our history, ancestors, leaders, innovators, and inventors. We are more than the music you may hear, or the food you may enjoy. We are the descendants of Aztec, Incan, Taino, Mayan and Arawak. Our forefathers discovered and built much of this country. Today, we are Supreme Court Justices, international leaders, astronauts and civil activists.
For example, take Angelo Falcón (June 23, 1951 – May 24, 2018) who was a Puerto Rican political scientist best known for starting the Institute for Puerto Rican Policy (IPR), a nonprofit and nonpartisan policy center that focuses on Latino issues in
the United States.
Or Ellen Ochoa, an American engineer, former astronaut and former director of the Johnson Space Center. In 1993, Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.
Awareness of who you are and where you come from is part of our individual journey, but when we gather and share, we become part of each other’s story. I invite you to explore and enjoy the rich history of my Latino community and leave this final quote:
“Si tienes un sueño, no dejes que nadie te lo quite.” – Selena Quintanilla
(“If you have a dream, do not let anyone take it from you.”)