For more than five decades, Hispanic Heritage Month has been a moment to celebrate, and most importantly learn, about America’s Hispanic heritage that goes back more than 450 years. In fact, large parts of the United States once belonged to our indigenous ancestors, followed by Spain and Mexico. The influence of Hispanic, Indigenous, and African cultures and languages remains omnipresent in these regions, from their names to their vibrant traditions.
While many Americans this month safely celebrate the beauty, diversity, and vast contributions of the Latino community, this year Hispanic Heritage Month feels different and more consequential. In the middle of a global pandemic and recession, which hit the Latino community disproportionately hard, and weeks away from one of the most critical elections in modern history, the irony of celebrating Latino heritage when the community’s basic human and constitutional rights are being attacked has not been lost on us.
This month, thousands of Hispanics across the country will put on their walking shoes to register voters, spend hours phone banking, drive people to early voting locations, rally around loved ones sick with COVID-19, and lend a helping hand to those struggling emotionally and financially through the pandemic. While many Americans are able to stay at home and quarantine, the country’s millions of Latino essential workers risk their health, and that of their families, every day to make that possible and keep the country running.
The essence of being Hispanic, this month and beyond, is to be a contributor. It means working hard in the face of adversity and helping others along the way. It means honoring the immigrant, even if the U.S. border crossed thousands of Latino families’ land centuries ago. It means fighting against racism and oppression, even when it comes to something as simple as voting. It means keeping faith, whether that means honoring God, family or community, and knowing that if we fight today, tomorrow will be better.
It is our hope that this Hispanic Heritage Month, you take time to learn about the historically hard path Latinos have walked in this country and the many current challenges for the most vulnerable. Hispanics were here before there was a United States and helped build this country into the global success story it is today. We hope this month you celebrate and respect Latino immigrants’ contributions to the American economy and culture and share in their gratitude and love for this country. And we also hope that you learn from the Hispanic community’s boundless tenacity of hope, as this community not only looks to a better future but works hard for one.