Opinion: Young Latina Questions Hispanic Heritage Month


originalThanks Macy’s, but this isn’t “celebrating,” this is selling.

By Juliana Brittos

According to the U.S. government, September is Hispanic Heritage Month, a celebration of Hispanic culture, heroes and holidays. The White House has had Latin music, NFL players have read to underprivileged children and the Smithsonian website hosts a picture of Celia Cruz with meringue playing in the background. I love me some salsa, but there’s something about this month that irks me.
First of all, the very word Hispanic is problematic. “Hispanic” defines someone by Spanish, the language of the people who colonized them. I don’t want to be defined by the violent encounter that was colonization, but even if I did, my ancestors were colonized by Portugal, not by Spain, and Spanish isn’t my native language. Hispanic excludes non-Spanish speaking people from the Americas into some vague “other” category. What if you are Haitian and speak Creole?  What if Zapotec is your first language and not Spanish? Or what if you are a Mexican-American raised in an English-speaking household? We all share many defining characteristics in common, but language isn’t always or necessarily one of them.
That’s why I prefer the term Latin@ (or Latina, if you want to include women, Latinx if you want to get away from the gender binary altogether). It speaks to the geographic commonalities that people from the Americas share, while at the same time reflecting our diversity in the way that checking “Hispanic” on the census just won’t do.
Similar to its namesake, Hispanic Heritage Month simplifies something that is wonderfully complex into a marketable soundbite of tacos, sombreros and token Latin@ success stories. How can Obama begin to celebrate our heritage with events at the White House when his administration has deported more people than any previous president? How can Walmart claim to support Latin@s in education when they still refuse to pay their Latin@ workers a living wage? How can the GOP have the gall to make a video honoring the “numerous contributions of Hispanics,” as a “nation built on the foundation of hard work, innovation and a desire for a brighter future,” when they  punish Latin@ immigrants for contributing, working hard and seeking that brighter future”?
Given that people are dying each day trying to cross a border that our government wants to further militarize, I just can’t swallow these celebrations of Latin@ culture.
Latin@s are not a bandwagon to jump on. We’re not a monolithic market to conquer.
 To read full article: feministing.com/2013/09/24/as-a-latina-i-have-a-problem-with-hispanic-heritage-month/
Meet the Author
Avatar Image

JulianaBrittoS @julianabritt



One thought on “Opinion: Young Latina Questions Hispanic Heritage Month

  1. I am Puerto Rican, not Latino, since I don’t speak Latin and I’m not from Latin America. Just as Juliana thinks the term Hispanic leaves out those from the Americas whose first language is not Spanish, I feel the term Latino/a leaves out people from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, etc. Further I feel the term Latino/a marginalizes those whose heritage comes from Spain through various islands and countries and are now citizens of the United States, as well as those who consider themselves Chicanos in western U.S. It seems like it’s the younger people who prefer the term Latino/a and we older folks feel disrespected. We’ve been here a lot longer and are happy to consider ourselves Hispanic and have taken steps to protect and promote our heritage. We need to unite, not let words divide us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *