Why are we still celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month?
Updated: Oct 5
by Rosa Vargas-Cronin
Hispanic Heritage Month initially began as a weeklong celebration in 1968 under President Lyndon B. Johnson who, at the time, said, “The people of Hispanic descent are the heirs of missionaries, captains, soldiers, and farmers who were motivated by a young spirit of adventure, and a desire to settle freely in a free land." Hispanic was never a term that everyone loved, but it was a term that got a lot of support from within Latinos in the Nixon [administration], and later, the Ford administration. It was eventually added to the 1980 census.
But the term “Hispanic” derives from the Spanish word “Hispano” which refers to “a person descended from Spanish settlers in the Southwest before it was annexed to the U.S.”
After Columbus reached the West Indies in 1492, the Spanish colonized and committed genocidal atrocities against Indigenous peoples of other islands in the Caribbean and South America. By 1540, Spain had conquered most of present-day Mexico, Central and South America.
Spain had claimed land, but quickly learned claiming land is different from controlling land. Spain was the first to start Colonies to protect land and govern people.
During September 15th to October 15, Latinx Nations celebrate their independence from Spain. September 15th is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively.
So, what happens when we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?
It erases Indigenous culture and sanitizes real history.
We’re celebrating the colonization and extinction of the Indigenous people they encountered
Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations often erase Black, Asian, and Indigenous voices and experiences
Many of us do not identify our Spanish side, so it will continue to alienate Latinx who don’t identify as White.
Here’s what we can celebrate instead:
Our Indigenous heritage by bringing back the history and experiences of our true First People.
Rejecting anti-Blackness and colonist ideology while embracing people from Latinx heritage who don’t fit the “socially accepted” Hispanic mold.
Indigenous names of peoples the Spanish extinguished (e.g. Taínos, Incas, Aztecs, Mayans etc.) are the ones we should be celebrating not our colonizers.
Our African ancestral roots as many of us are of African descent
Teach and learn about our true past.
Romo, Vanessa. "Yes, We're Calling It Hispanic Heritage Month And We Know It Makes Some Of You Cringe." NPR, 17 Sept. 2021, www.npr.org/2021/09/17/1037741009/yes-were-calling-it-hispanic-heritage-month-and-we-know-it-makes-some-of-you-cri.
(n.d.). Indigenous peoples of the Americas. New World Encyclopedia. https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Indigenous_peoples_of_the_Americas
Sobo, E. J., Lambert, M., & Lambert, V. (2021). Land acknowledgments meant to honor Indigenous people too often do the opposite – erasing American Indians and sanitizing history instead. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/land-acknowledgments-meant-to-honor-indigenous-people-too-often-do-the-opposite-erasing-american-indians-and-sanitizing-history-instead-163787
"About Latinx." Davenport University | Libraries, 15 Sept. 2022, davenport.libguides.com/Latinx.
Bravo, T. (2021). Hispanic Heritage month: Why some are skeptical about it, thanks to its problematic history. Daily Sundial. https://sundial.csun.edu/166090/arts-entertainment/hispanic-heritage-month-why-some-are-skeptical-about-it-thanks-to-its-problematic-history/