Updated: Dec 10, 2021
By Saesha Bhat ('24)
Taco Tuesdays, a school lunch staple, has been celebrated by Americans since the late 80s. Latino trap and hip-hop from famous artists such as Bad Bunny and Ozuna have been played throughout the country for decades. Saddlebags and cowboy boots have become everyday essentials for some. So, is there anything that celebrates all of these impactful people and cultures together?
National Hispanic Heritage Month, starting on September 15 and ending on October 15, commemorates the culture and history of Americans with Hispanic backgrounds. Its odd starting date celebrates the day of independence for Central American countries such as El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras. Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated on the 16th and Chile’s Independence Day on the 18th.
The celebration came to be when George E. Brown, a California congressman, pushed for Latino appreciation in the states in 1968. Under President Lyndon B. Johnson, the first Hispanic Heritage Week took place on September 17, 1968. It wasn’t until President Ronald Reagan in 1988 that it was extended for a month.
What does Hispanic Heritage Month consist of?
Spanish teacher Ms. Karina Alonso at SBHS shared some customs of this celebration. She mentioned that the month-long celebration includes “concerts, art exhibitions, workshops, film screenings, and lectures highlighting the Hispanic community in our country.”
Traditions of making Hispanic food like tortillas española, empanadas, and mole are celebrated during this time. Although no attire is specified for this event, Ms. Alonso said some cultural events include traditional clothing from Hispanic countries.”
Mexican women tend to wear long, colorful skirts that are lightweight, perfect for the heat. It is paired with a white or matching shirt, flowers in the hair, and several pieces of jewelry. Moving throughout Central America, the clothing varies with dresses and colorful lace embroidery. Mexican men traditionally wear sombreros, a Mexican staple for past cowboys that is now appreciated by all.
With COVID-19, it may seem hard to celebrate such a social celebration, but there are many ways to celebrate this month-long event from the comforts of home. Online websites provided by large Latino organizations like The Smithsonian Latino Center and the Museum of Latin American Art offer virtual museum experiences like tours, games, simulations, and the museums’ art pieces. In the same line, supporting Hispanic or Latino-owned businesses is a great way to give back, especially with the effects of COVID-19 exacerbating the economic struggles of many small businesses.
SBHS’s Hispanic student population is only 8%, but looking at the state as a whole, Hispanics account for 28% of all NJ schools’ student population, second highest to the white population. Due to the lack of Hispanic representation through clubs and events at SBHS, it is important to recognize the 230 students who do hail from this background.
Although this may seem like another month, to many, including Ms. Alonso, it can hold some great value and importance. Its importance comes from ‘ the impact Latinos have had in [the American] society.’”
To her, the Hispanic culture ‘ [has] made [its] mark on many different aspects of the culture of the United States’ like music, clothing, and food. It is because of this significant influence that Americans should never fail to ‘recognize their efforts’ and who made America what it is today.