I cherish the memories of when we celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month at my Elementary school in Texas. We lived in The Rio Grande Valley area which you could locate best if I point you to the southernmost tip of Texas. It must have been the proximity to Mexico that inspired the abundance of festivities during this time. The sight of it was lovely and I’d like to inspire you to create some of that at home!
National Hispanic Heritage Month actually started off as a commemorative week in the U.S. in which the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States were recognized. It was later extended into a full month in 1988 thanks to President Ronald Reagan because he knew that Hispanics like a good, long party.
All kidding aside, the 30 day period begins on September 15th and ends on October 15th marking a range of significant dates in the Hispanic culture, including Mexican Independence Day on September 16th and Columbus Day on October 12th.
Naturally, I revisited the idea of my familia’s contributions to the United States. One of my greatest joys is to know that my grandfather served during World War II, from 1942-1945, and received his honorable discharge as Staff Sergeant. I didn’t get to meet him but his legacy lives on. Subsequently, my dad and uncle followed in his steps and enlisted to serve our country.
Other Hispanic American contributions include Sonia Sotomayor, for example, who became the first Hispanic American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court as well as only the third woman to serve in the 220-year history of our nation’s highest court. Then there is Guillermo González Camarena, the engineer that invented the color wheel component for televisions. Or, Cuban percussionist, Chano Pozo who first collaborated with, Jazz legend, Dizzy Gillespie to create Afro-Cuban rhythms and jazz. And the list goes on!
The question then arises: How can we celebrate this month-long American holiday? Well, the possibilities are endless!
- Visit a local Hispanic restaurant
- Practice new Spanish phrases with your Hispanic friends
- Listen and dance to a fun Spanish song like this one about the tiny hummingbird from Cuba:
- Try a new fruit or candy from the Hispanic section at the grocery store
- Explore The Latino Presence in American Art display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum:
- Play a traditional game from a Hispanic country
- Craft a festive Mexican cutout banner
- Invite yourself to a Hispanic party, seriously, they won’t mind
These are some very light-hearted ideas but I pray that, above all, these activities would bring you opportunities to strengthen the relational connections with those around you. Though this holiday may be sparked by a people foreign to your ancestors, let us remember that, in Christ, we are brothers and sisters and we can love and celebrate each other as such.