National Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of Hispanic peoples and culture that spans from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 in the United States.
The dates coincide with the national independence days of many Central and South American countries, including but not limited to Guatemala, Sept. 15, Mexico, Sept. 16, and Belize, Sept. 21.
Throughout the 31 days schools, organizations and other institutions “play their part” by boosting Hispanic icons, films, history, music, etc. However, most acts are shallow attempts that reflect our culture’s consensus regarding Latinx representation.
The problem starts with the term “Hispanic."
It refers to people and cultures of Spanish origin. Yet in common discourse, the term is mistakenly used to describe all Central and South Americans. This term excludes Latin American ethnic groups without a history of Spanish conquests like Brazil or Haiti.
Most notably, the term “Hispanic” centers on Spanish ancestry, undermining historical anti-colonialism and the righteous independence of these countries.
In more recent years "Latinx" or "Latine" has become the preferred term amongst youth and academics in order to subvert patriarchal supremacy in the Spanish language, and provide an inclusive, gender-neutral term for non-binary or gender non-conforming people.
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The terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” are used interchangeably, perpetuating misinformation and a generalization of many different cultures. In fact, in the 1930 Census, all Latinx peoples were wrongly categorized as “Mexican."
This pattern of generalization is also seen in media depictions of Latinx individuals. Some common character tropes include the “life-changer," “spicy lover” and “gang banger." All tropes reduce Latinx characters to mere plot devices without complex characterization.
These representations of Latinx people dehumanize an entire population by treating them like plot devices, sexual objects or violent criminals. And, unfortunately, this neglect in media extends into our everyday lives.
Few efforts have been taken to increase the representation of Latinx individuals in higher education, much less acknowledge our presence on campus other than the great work done in the Office of Inclusion and Diversity. The office will be hosting Denice Frohman, an eloquently provocative poet over Zoom on Oct.15 in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
The Auburn Wellness Kitchen also hosted the At The Home Corner In Wellness Kitchen on Oct. 12, serving cultural foods for Hispanic Heritage Month, but that was the extent of the celebrations that I've seen.
Without representation in academia, and in all other spaces, people struggle to consider a livelihood beyond one rooted in oppression. Therefore, it is crucial include Latinx people in the conversation about diversifying the student body and faculty.
So do not ask your waitress at a Mexican restaurant to speak Spanish, or treat the first Latinx person you interact with on-campus like a mysterious, exotic bird.
It is the least you can do.
And for all my fellow Latinxs, ¡Saludos y Feliz Mes Nacional de la Herencia Latinx!
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