Voices in My Head
National Hispanic Heritage Month
According to the online encyclopedia,Wikipedia, “Hispanic Heritage Week was begun by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 and the length of it was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period (September 15 – October 15). It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988 on the approval of Public Law 100-402.
September 15 was chosen as the starting point for the celebration because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. All declared independence in 1821. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18, and September 21, respectively.”
But it was the next paragraph that really took my breath away, “Hispanic Heritage Month also celebrates the long and important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans in North America, starting with the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus on the morning of October 12, 1492. A map of late 18th-century North America shows this presence, from the small outpost of San Francisco founded in the desolate wilderness of Alta California in 1776, through the Spanish province of Texas with its vaqueros (cowboys), to the fortress of St. Augustine, Florida — the first continuous European settlement in North America, founded in 1565, forty-two years before the English landed in Jamestown, Virginia.”
Let’s be clear, Christopher Columbus may have opened a door for Spain, but many indigenous aren’t celebrating.
As we celebrate this one month, we should be thinking about the future of Latino people every day in today’s America. We can start by accepting the fact that we all are not alike, both as individuals and as distinct ethnic groups and from countries of origins. Yes, the fact that Spanish and the heritage unites many of us (at least those who still speak it), we are more complicated than that.
My father was Puerto Rican and my mother is from the Dominican Republic (that’s in the Caribbean for you geographically challenged). Puerto Ricans were granted citizenship in 1918. In spite of that, Puerto Rico lacks voting in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
Puerto Ricans are not Mexicans or Brazilians (which speak Portuguese but is also part of Latin America). In spite of the many differences, we find some commonalities in not only language but music, food, and dance.
I was born in New York. I am as far away from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic as one can get. I like to say I’m more American that many people because I was raised in New York, the crossroads of so many ethnic groups to America. English (well, the New York American version) has been my primary language since I was 6 or 7 years old. I am now 66. I can speak enough Spanish to get out of a fight but that’s pretty much it.
In spite of all that, I know and feel who I am. A Newyorrican/Dominican who celebrates a second generation brand of Latino-American. Grown up with the food, music, culture mixed in with the groups around me. Italians. Irish. Jewish. Polish. Absorbed them like I was one of them. Even if they didn’t want me. Those ten years in Washington, D.C. learning about Mexicans, Chileans, Hondurans, Cubans and all the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. We just knew that we shared something. Whether we called it Hispanic, Hispanic-American, Latino, Spanish-Surname. We just knew there was something special about the bonds that we celebrated.
And now, there’s something extra special to celebrate. We are the largest non-european group in this country.
Hispanic Americans By the Numbers From the U.S. Census Bureau
54 million: The Hispanic population of the United States as of July 1, 2013, making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority. Hispanics constituted 17 percent of the nation’s total population.
1.1 million: Number of Hispanics added to the nation’s population between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2013. This number is close to half of the approximately 2.3 million people added to the nation’s population during this period.
2.0%: Percentage increase in the Hispanic population between 2012 and 2013
128.8 million: The projected Hispanic population of the United States in 2060. According to this projection, the Hispanic population will constitute 31 percent of the nation’s population by that date.
2nd: Ranking of the size of the U.S. Hispanic population worldwide, as of 2010. Only Mexico (120 million) had a larger Hispanic population than the United States (54 million).
64%: The percentage of those of Hispanic origin in the United States who were of Mexican background in 2012. Another 9.4 percent were of Puerto Rican background, 3.8 percent Salvadoran, 3.7 percent Cuban, 3.1 percent Dominican and 2.3 percent Guatemalan. The remainder was of some other Central American, South American or other Hispanic/Latino origin.
There’s good news and bad news. From a Supreme Court Justice to Corporate CEOs and Elected Officials, we’re making our mark on America. And there’s plenty of individuals and families who are struggling against financial insecurity, stalled educational progress and racism. What really sparks my brain though are the “Donald Trumps” and “Jan Brewers” of the country. The Xenophobia and nativism against Latinos is counterproductive. It’s based in some serious self-image issues and it’s the proverbial red herring.
So, we go forward with celebrating what holds together as Latinos and Americans. But a word to those who think that we’re going somewhere else. We’re here. We’re going to stay here. We’ll be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in 2017 and 2034. Get over it.
[Cover feature photo from Museum of Latin American Art]
[More data HERE]
Celebrate Hispanic Heritage here: