From now until October 15th, you might begin to notice some changes in your town as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Listen to sounds coming out of Latin celebrations and you might hear the rhythm we know as “dembow.” Step into a local Hispanic restaurant and you might discover the enticing cheesy aromas that come from “pupusas,” “gorditas” or “arepas” (my personal favorite!). Pay attention to the decorations that arise in your city and you might be filled with excitement as a variety of lively colors come together in a joyful “fiesta.”
Hispanic Heritage Month has been celebrated since 1988 and covers the National Independence Days for various Latin American countries including Honduras, Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. During these 30 days, Latinos are invited to share and celebrate their culture with their community.
In addition to festivities, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to remind ourselves of the value of diversity and the impact Latinos have made (and continue to make) across the U.S. today. Let’s take a look at some ways our Latin friends and neighbors have impacted our communities:
– Latinos bring new flavors: From Venezuelan to Peruvian, to the beloved Mexican and Texan fusion known as TexMex, Latin food has been gladly enjoyed by Americans for hundreds of years. Explore what local Latin-owned restaurants exist in your community and give your taste buds a burst of flavor this Hispanic Heritage Month!
– Latinos have made us a multilingual country: It’s estimated that about 41,757,391 people in the United States (or 13.5%) speak Spanish. This makes Spanish the second most commonly spoken language in the United States and invites U.S residents to explore the value of learning a second language.
– Latinos enrich our culture: While often seen as a melting pot, the U.S. has always been more of a fruit salad. As Hispanics/Latinos join our communities, they add new flavors as we’re introduced to new ideas, art, architecture and music. Just like a fruit salad, the more flavors, the better!
– Latinos are a value add to our economy: A recent report by Stanford University found that over the past 10 years, Latinos have been responsible for 44% of all new businesses. Combined with consumption, this results in a total of $2.75 trillion of total economic output by Latinos in the United States.
This year, reminding ourselves that diversity is a strength rather than a weakness, feels extra important. While some politicians see Latin immigrants as mere pawns, it is clear to me that we Latinos are so much more. We are entrepreneurs, dreamers, artists, educators, change-makers…Whether we have been here for generations, or have just arrived, Latinos are here for the same reason as all Americans: to live in a safe home, play an active role in society and work together to build a country we can all be proud of.
This Hispanic Heritage Month, I invite you to appreciate the impact Latinos have made on your community and ask yourself: what can I do to continue welcoming and celebrating diversity?
Mariana Gama is the Program Communications Specialist at CWS. Originally from Colombia, Mariana is passionate about lifting up the Latin community and immigrants like herself through advocacy and compassionate storytelling.