This Thursday, October 15, marks the end of National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, and we wanted to finish it out by taking a look back at the history and importance of the month, and the ways that a few members of our Chill family choose to celebrate it.
National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month was founded in 1968 as a week to commemorate and celebrate the Hispanic/Latinx community in the US, before being expanded to a full month in 1988. When Congress originally authorized it, they called upon the “people of the United States, especially the educational community, to observe such week with appropriate ceremonies and activities,” but what does that really mean, and is there any one correct way to approach it?
Montgomery County Recreation, one of our Baltimore agencies, places a specific focus on Hispanic/Latinx heritage during the month by hosting events based around specific cultural aspects. Rob Kiger, Recreation Specialist at MCR and long-time member of the Chill family, talked specifically about interactive dance-centric events where they bring in professional dancers in traditional Hispanic/Latinx disciplines. These events not only serve as a catalyst for conversation, celebration, and learning around heritage, but also provide an opportunity for Hispanic/Latinx youth to show off their own dance skills to their peers, and be empowered by their own heritage.
Dennis Ho is a math teacher and agency lead for one of our Denver agencies, Kepner Beacon Middle School and its sister school, Grant Beacon Middle School. Dennis shared a bit about the schools’ overall philosophy and approach to diverse cultures and heritage. “In the social studies classes, I know there’s a focus on a different country every week or every month, and they focus on a lot of Latin American countries recently for heritage month” Dennis said. “Our daily announcements in the morning also has a series where they talk about a different country, the food, and the culture.” With many American textbooks and curriculum materials lacking in multi-cultural representation, this daily focus on diversity helps to see their own heritage as important in the country and in the world.
Lastly, we caught up with our Chill Boston Program Coordinator, Karlos Jeri. Karlos didn’t grow up celebrating Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, but as a Latino growing up in the US, connecting to his heritage was always important. “Half my family’s in South America in Peru and half my family’s up here, and I grew up learning about the culture and trying to get myself immersed and always surrounded by Spanish language and Spanish food, so every day for me has always included that,” he said. “With Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, I think it’s super awesome and important that acknowledgement is growing, and people are making it a more common thing right now. The biggest thing I would like to see through Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month is the breaking down of stereotypes and the understanding of the different countries, aspects, and cultures within Latin America.”
While every person and organization has their own approach to National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, there are certainly some common themes. Hispanic/Latinx heritage and culture is an important part of America and the world, it deserves to be celebrated not just for a month, but every day, and the power of cultural inclusivity and celebration for youth is undeniable. Chill is happy and proud to celebrate Hispanic/Latinx heritage throughout this month and throughout the year!
For additional info on National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month, check out the links below: