Celebrating Hispanic Heritage:
Hispanic Voices Deserve to be Heard
By Sandra Moreno, BakerRipley Neighborhood Tax Centers
When did Hispanic Heritage Month begin?
Hispanic Heritage Month was enacted into law in 1988. It celebrates the accomplishments, cultures, and contributions of Hispanic Americans with ancestry from Spanish-speaking countries in North, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Spain. The commemoration lasts from September 15 through October 15. It encompass many of these countries’ independence days and Dia de La Raza (Indigenous Peoples’ Day).
Promoting Hispanic representation is critical
As a first generation DACA graduate student, I believe the best way to honor and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month is to advocate for education on Hispanic successes and representation. In an interview with the Aspen Institute on Latino identity and civic engagement, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an epitome of Hispanic leadership, said “We are never going to reach equality in America until we achieve equality in education. That’s why we’re unequal in this society, and it’s what we need to change if we want all people equal – not just under law – but in participation in society.”
In Houston, we have taken initial steps to promote the importance of Hispanic representation in society and history through HISD’s introduction of Mexican American Studies curriculum at the high school level. Ethnic studies have shown to improve performance and school attendance by 21%. This leads to higher graduation rates for students at risk of dropping out. We must continue to advocate for the expansion of these ethnic studies to focus not just on Mexican Americans but on Hispanic American representation overall.
How can you take the next step to support Hispanic voices?
Hispanic Heritage Month brings an opportunity to engage our community in civic participation. Hispanics/Latinos make up 45% of the Houston population. With our current political climate and the COVID-19 pandemic, now more than ever, it is imperative we have our voices heard. One way to do this is by registering and showing up to vote for the 2022 Texas elections. This month, you can help support Hispanic representation by helping register those family members and friends who are not yet registered to vote and by stressing the importance of the Hispanic vote. As Dolores Huerta once said, “Si, se puede!”