Today officially marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month so proclaimed and established by President Lyndon Johnson and then expanded by President Ronald Regan. It was enacted into to law on August 17, 1988. That same year, a little boy from McLeansville, NC had just turned 12 years old and had never even met a Latino in his town of 1,100 much less heard of National HispanicHeritage Month. That little boy was me.
Fast forward 23 years later and you find this small-town boy heavily involved in the Hispanic community both professionally and personally. On my personal blog, I’ve written about being a Gringo Latino, so I’ll leave that up to you to discover, but what I’d like to talk about is what Hispanic Heritage Month means to me – someone who grew up in a rural community where diversity was hard to come by.
Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity for everyone (including me), regardless of race, creed or color, to learn more about another culture. I gravitate towards “mis Latinos” because of the richness and variety they provide. Although united by the common language of Spanish (and yes I know that a Latin can encompass numerous people in Europe and Latin America – not just Spanish speakers), it is amazing how each country possesses its own personality and way of life.
During this month of celebration, getting out and enjoying all your Latino brethren have to offer is key to understanding what makes other people tick. It can also give you an appreciation of your own culture. I’ve often said that Latinos and folks from the south have a lot in common via the bonds of faith, family and friends. Making these connections are what it’s all about!
Luckily, we have the Internet and a host of social media platforms to connect us all in the matter of seconds. I can be talking to friends in Colombia via Facebook one minute and Skyping with my ‘suegros’ in another. And let’s not forget all the friends, Latinos and Gringos, I’ve made via Twitter. Hispanic Heritage Month is a chance to support people from different backgrounds and life experiences. In doing so, you can learn about time honored traditions, as well as customs that may have shaped your own life.
Interacting with people that don’t look like you, speak a different language, eat different foods and react differently to situations are all things that will put you out of your comfort zone. Speaking from experience, however, living outside your comfort zone around people who are culturally aware and open are two components of happiness. Hispanic Heritage Month, for me, is a time to uplift those who have helped me become a better person emotionally and spiritually.
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! Pa’lante!!