Hispanic Heritage Month Reminds Us To Take Pride in Cultural Connections

This month offers us the opportunity to reflect on the richness of Latinx culture and how it enriches, contributes to and is an integral part of American culture.
Marcos DeLeon

As I took in the musical, dance and visual presentations of Zulema, I couldn’t help feeling proud of the strength it takes to leave your homeland in search of a more fulfilling and prosperous life. The ensemble performance sponsored by the Chicago Park District and the Goodman Theatre features a mother-daughter exchange of the heroine’s family journey from the Mexican state of Chiapas to Chicago.

Zulema took us up the beautiful Pacific coast, through central Mexico, crossing the border and eventually landing here in our city of Chicago where she began her new life and raised her own family. Stories like Zulema’s, and the nuances and cultural elements carried across regions and time, repeat themselves throughout Latinx cultures every day and add to the patchwork of our society. I am proud to be a product of such bravery as my grandparents made the life-changing decision to leave their homes in Mexico in search of hope and the opportunity to contribute to this great country.

As an opportunity for reflection and appreciation, each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Spain.

The observation began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on Sept. 15, ending on Oct. 15. It was enacted into law on Aug. 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.

Sept. 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept.18, respectively. 

While the focus has been on immigrants and the diverse contributions Latinx people (inclusive of indigenous, Brazilian and non-Spanish-speaking groups) bring to our culture, it is important to recognize that this segment today is more robust, and its composition has a majority of people born in the United States, who create their own culture, influenced by their ancestors, but also by their own experiences in this country.

Whether it’s Zulema from Chiapas or Marcos Vidal DeLeon from Guanajuato, it is stories like these that serve as testaments to how complex we are as a country and an affirmation that we are one nation. Please join me in welcoming in Hispanic Heritage Month. Salud!

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