Why It Shouldn’t Be Called Hispanic Heritage Month

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Latino/a Heritage Month

Zayra Trejo, Opinion Editor

Hispanic Heritage Month has begun! This celebration begins on September 15th and ends on October 15th to honor all the Latinos who have made their impact on the United States.

However, there has been recent controversy  that has sparked my interest. The problem doesn’t lie within the celebration but rather on the term “Hispanic.” By using the word “Hispanic,” it erases the many diverse cultures and peoples in Latin America.

“Hispanic” refers to Spain and to native Spanish speakers in Latin America. That’s the first problem.

When one uses that term, it erases the indigenous people of the country, those who don’t speak Spanish, and Afro-Latinos. Hispanic doesn’t equal the indigenous tribes that speak their own language. Hispanic doesn’t equal Brazilians who speak Portuguese. Hispanic doesn’t equal Afro-Latinos who come from two different backgrounds. Last but not least, Hispanic doesn’t equal Latinos who never had the opportunity to learn Spanish or their own culture.

When Hispanic Heritage Month rolls around, there’s not enough awareness. I mean, sure there’s the typical sale in Tex-Mex restaurants and half-priced tacos, but that really doesn’t say anything about actual Latinos that have made their mark in the States. No one talks about Cesar Chavez, the Mexican-American co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association, or Sylvia Rivera, the Venezuelan-American transgender woman who fought for LGBT+ rights or Zulia Maria Mena Garcia, the first Afro-Colombian congresswoman in Colombia.

Part of this problem lies in the lack of awareness in schools and how most of Latino activism and history in America is just skimmed over. Students get a glimpse of this only in U.S. history classes when the textbook finally reaches the 1960s but history teachers never go in depth. I’ve met people that still don’t know about the Chicano Movement or about the Zoot Suit Riots, where young Chicanos were met with violence due to being viewed as criminals for wearing baggy suits.

I think as a young Latina living in the United States, it is up to the youth to keep this month thriving and remembered for all the right reasons. Keep the stories of Latin activists and idols alive by remembering the Afro-Latinos in our history and the indigenous people of our native countries.

It’s up to us to celebrate and keep the meaning of Latino Heritage Month.

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