Attention Latinos! Put away the invisible cloak you wear 11 months of the year. Aren’t we lucky? From Sept. 15 to Oct. 16, we get to celebrate our multiple cultures, opinions, perspectives, cuisines and races (well, sort of). It’s Hispanic History Month. And, as a special bonus because it’s a presidential election year, we are going to be visible until November.
Hispanic History Month is mainly a quaint tradition celebrated by universities with poetry readings, music and exhibits, and it is still nowhere near as popular as the fiestas created by Corona beer for bars and restaurants to celebrate Mexico’s Cinco de Mayo. But, as always, our ideas and our cultural differences are trumped by a great excuse to consume a lot of beer and tequila, while wearing straw hats, and pretending to be like Mexicans. That is, until revelers go back to work the next day building the fence to keep our two countries separated, and passing laws for the sole purpose of keeping Latinos out of the States.
But, seriously, do we have anything to gain by celebrating Hispanic History Month? I don’t think so.
The cynic in me is reminded of being a little kid when my Mom was busy. She would tell me “Go to tía Lola. Tell her to give you tente-allá” No matter how many times she played that trick on me, I always fell for it. “Tente-allá” was a code between adults to keep the children looking the other way. Much of Hispanic History Month is like that.
Let’s sing, dance and eat. Let’s tell people how much we have to offer and, for one month, let’s forget that the Hispanic/Latinos we see portrayed on TV are stereotypes, caricatures of our people, that our many wonderful writers are hardly ever included in the lists of books to take to the beach in the summer, or the reviewers’ lists of “must reads.” Let’s not forget that most of our intellectuals are never featured as panelists in discussion forums, and that except for PBS, they are hardly ever present as news commentators on English-language TV.
For one month, let’s show that Hispanics are of many races and speak many indigenous languages; that we are the children and grandchildren of many who left Europe and settled in Latin America, to escape wars and persecutions.
But, most of all, if Hispanic History Month is going to mean anything, let’s get together and say “Si se puede.” Like Cesar Chavez and his supporters, like our Dreamers just did, and like so many others continue to do, to ensure that in the future, our community will not have to remain invisible for 11 months a year. It does not have to be like this, not if we vote, not if we make sure our voices are heard loud and clear, and not if we refuse to wear that cloak.
(Bessy Reyna is an opinion columnist for CTLatinoNews.com whose views do not necessarily reflect those of this website. She is a former opinion columnist for the Hartford Courant and the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Connecticut Center for the Book.)