Embracing culture: The importance of celebrating Hispanic heritage

In+the+past%2C+Hispanic+culture+has+been+celebrated+with+lively+festivals.+Hispanic+Heritage+Month+%28Sept.+15+to+Oct.+15%29+welcomes+this+celebration+and+aids+in+the+embracing+of+culture+around+the+world.+Art+by+Rory+Knettles

Rory Knettles

In the past, Hispanic culture has been celebrated with lively festivals. Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15) welcomes this celebration and aids in the embracing of culture around the world. Art by Rory Knettles

Rory Knettles, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Since 1968, Hispanic cultures have been celebrated across the country during the week of Sept. 15. In 1988, that week was extended to National Hispanic Heritage Month, which lasts from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 every year. This month was chosen because of its significance in Latin American countries— seven countries celebrate their independence during this period of time. 

The debate over whether to use Hispanic, Latino or Latinx has been prevalent in the country over the past few years, yet only three percent of the Hispanic population in the U.S. uses it to describe themselves. Hispanic is widely considered an appropriate way to describe those of Latin American descent.

This year’s theme — Hispanics: Be Proud of Your Past, Embrace Your Future — invites Hispanic people to be proud of their heritage, who they are and where they come from. The celebration of Hispanic heritage is becoming increasingly important in the U.S. as Hispanic people make up the largest racial minority in the country. Additionally, the U.S. has the second largest population of Hispanic people in the world, just behind Mexico.

In Washington, Hispanic people make up 12.4% of the population, the second largest racial demographic in the state. Natalia Cook* said she takes pride in her heritage but is frustrated at the lack of Hispanic education in the state.

“I am proud of the diversity in color, culture, customs and languages,” she said, “but I would like to see more appreciation for that diversity; right now I think that a lot of people don’t know about how much variety there is.”

Organizations in Washington are fighting to uplift and emphasize the diversity in culture in the Hispanic community through the Cultural Congress of Washington, an organization dedicated to uplifting all cultures in the state. La Sala, a volunteer-based organization involved in the congress, attempts to empower and celebrate Hispanic artists in the Seattle area who exemplify the culture of their community. They work to break down barriers to success that impact Latinx artists. 

“The marginalization of Latinx artists and Latinx art and culture in Washington State has been a persistent problem,” La Sala said on their website. “We have also provided access to educational and art spaces and opportunities, creating cohesiveness, positive identity representation and economic development for Latinx creatives… We have always lived on the fringes, carrying culture in our knapsacks.”

La Sala’s goal is to honor the history of Hispanic people in America by providing outlets for culture building and strengthening. This type of representation is important for those with mixed heritage as well, Yamaris Dean* said. 

“Being mixed has been a really big part of my life and identity,” Dean said. “ Seeing it represented around here is so important; it’s something that I’d like to see more of.”

An organization that is working towards celebrating identity and providing Hispanic people with the tools needed to thrive in a modern society El Centro de la Raza, a community-based organization in Seattle. Some of their goals include eliminating institutionalized racism, supporting the right to self-determination and promoting the recapture of the culture, language and respect for the Hispanic community. They help thousands of families yearly through educational opportunities, outreach programs and classes for career-related skills. Organizations like these have given underrepresented people the chance to thrive.

The importance of celebrating your cultural heritage is clear to senior Jianna Williams. She said that honoring your past and embodying who you are because of your heritage is important, but seeing yourself recognized in the media or in your community is validating beyond comparison. 

“I am proud of my heritage. I carry it with me wherever I go,” Williams said. “But, it would be easier to be proud if the world recognized the beauty in everyone’s culture— if [everyone else] was proud, too.”

That’s what National Hispanic Heritage Month stands for: growth in the world and acceptance and pride in yourself. This month is meant to help the Hispanic community feel recognized and appreciated for who they are.

“This month is so important,” Williams said. “I’m seeing people celebrate who they are.The country celebrating along with them is just the cherry on top.”

*Names have been changed for the sake of anonymity