October 29, 2007

Hispanic Heritage Month

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

National Hispanic Heritage Month recently came to an end.  During the month of October, our country acknowledged and proudly paid reverence to the considerable contributions made to the United States by people of Hispanic descent.  Given the enormity of all that such men and women have accomplished, it’s absolutely appropriate that we do so.

Hispanic immigrants helped to lay the foundation of our country.  As politicians and activists, men and women of Hispanic descent have helped to define and resolve issues affecting the continued development of our country.  As writers and poets, they’ve challenged the rest of us to look at our nation from new perspectives.  As musicians and artists, they’ve brought an entirely new dimension to America’s cultural heritage.  Hispanic Heritage Month is recognition of that impact, and a promise, on behalf of our country, that we will never forget all that Hispanic men and women have contributed to the quilt that blankets our nation.  But we can and should do more.

Doing more includes continuously focusing on Hispanic history, culture, and communities.  It means making sure that our kids know about Simon Bolivar, Salvador Dali, and Cesar Chavez.  It requires that we educate our citizens about our significant roots in Spain, the Caribbean, and South and Central America.

The sooner we do so, the better off we all will be.  We become better when we understand this isn’t just ‘Hispanic history’, just as African-American History Month isn’t just a ‘black history.’  It is OUR history!  We have all been enriched—knowingly or unknowingly—by our nation’s diversity.  A nation that is rich in culture, diverse in it’s wealth of experiences,  comprising a rainbow of perspectives, and values that characterize America.

In that mindset, we must come together to make Hispanic Heritage Month something more than just a period on the calendar.  We must take the time to honor the spirit of the occasion, by committing ourselves to better understanding our nation’s history in it’s entirety.  As citizens, we must individually take steps to become more informed.  As communities, we must make it a priority to educate our members about the political, social, and cultural attributes that distinguish people of Hispanic descent.   

In achieving that goal, Hispanic Heritage Month is just a start.  It should serve as one more building block on the strong foundation from which we build relationships and respect for all members of our society, domestically and abroad.  Hispanic Heritage Month is done, but our work to be inclusive continues.