The contributions that Hispanics have made to the United States culture are multiple. For generations, they have prospered and have left undisputable marks in the country that have watched them thrive and succeed in all aspects of society: art, music, sports, science, technology, the economy, and gastronomy, to mention a few. In observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, which takes place every September 15 – October 15, let’s celebrate a community that has been of significant influence in this country!
Although the words Latino and Hispanic are often used as synonymous, they don’t mean the same. In the United States, the terminologies were adopted to group immigrants settled in this country. Nonetheless, Hispanic refers to Spanish-speakers or descendants of Spanish-speaking countries – which may not include Brazilians, even though their geographic location is right at the center of the Latin American region – while Latinos are those of Latin American ancestry. The topic gets even more complicated since Hispanics and Latinos can be of any race, origin, and ethnicity.
A curious part of the culture is the language. Even though Spanish is pretty much the same overall, certain words and expressions mean something else depending on the country of origin. As a Hispanic born in New York, with French, Spanish, and Native ancestry and who grew up in Venezuela, I haven’t given too much consideration to the use of the terms Hispanic or Latino, aside from their mere definition. Of course, we also eat different dishes, in some cases the same food with a couple of tweaks. When growing up, I thought that arepas were exclusively Venezuelan. However, a couple of good friends from Colombia bustled my bubble by insisting that arepas were theirs (my favorites are still the Venezuelans 😉
With the U.S. Hispanic population surpassing 60 million in 2019, it is important to find common grounds and recognize the accomplishments that so many have achieved through hard work and commitment, which has paved the way for many more to come. Especially around this month, which primary objective is to recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans who have inspired others to achieve success.
A source of great inspiration is Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. When I read My Beloved World, I learned not only about the first Latina Supreme Court justice in U.S. history. But I also learned about the human being who experienced a difficult childhood while growing up in a housing project in the Bronx with an alcoholic father and been diagnosed with diabetes at a very young age. Her love for her grandmother only made me want to read more and installed in me a sense of great respect for her life and for the many other Latinas and Hispanics who have overcome such circumstances and turned out to be great role models.
Likewise, many others have weight-in with their talents and achievements, giving us all a cause of celebration and admiration. Some of them, but there are many more include NASA engineer Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to go to space. Rafael Reif is the 17th president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Gustavo Dudamel, conductor and music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. In the sports arena, we have Roberto Clemente, one of the greatest baseball players of all time, the well-known Alex Rodriguez, and Miguel Cabrera, who most recently hit 500 home runs. On the art front, Rita Moreno is the only Hispanic actress that has won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. With no need of introduction is actor and singer Jennifer Lopez. Food Network chef Aaron Sánchez and Daniela Soto-Innes collaborated with famed Mexico City chef Enrique Olvera in NYC restaurants Cosme and Atla.
This Hispanic Heritage Month is the perfect time to reflect on the richness and diversity of the culture. Whether Latinos, Hispanics, or Latinx, we can observe the month under one umbrella while learning, contributing, and even having constructive discussions about real issues that affect the community and bring us together.
Did you know that there are 483 million Spanish speakers worldwide? Or that Spanish is the second-most-used language on Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn? Tell us how you would like to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month!