September 16, 2014

Hispanic Heritage Month

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

Every year, from September 15th to October 15th we celebrate a community that has so significantly defined our landscape – Hispanic and Latino American’s. Hispanic Heritage Month began as a weeklong celebration in 1968, and was extended to a thirty days in 1988. This period coincides with a number of celebrations in the Hispanic community. September 15th marks the anniversary of the independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.  Moreover Mexico celebrates its independence day on September 16th and Chile celebrates its independence day on September 18th. Lastly, Columbus Day, also known as Día de la Raza, is celebrated on October 12th.

The United States are often referred to as a “salad bowl,” a mix of influences and backgrounds, thoughts and ideals, languages, traditions and cultures. There is nowhere in the country that this is more evident than in our nation’s cities. These cities are built on and defined by the people that settled there, those who traveled by land, air and sea in order to achieve the American dream, to live in a free land where anything is possible.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries Milwaukee’s history has mirrored this narrative. Forever changing, growing with its influences, becoming more and more significant with each community that grew here, Milwaukee was a destination for those in search of opportunity and equality. Americans and Immigrants alike settled in Milwaukee -- giving it its unique identity, its unabashed diversity, and its rich historical and cultural tradition. One such community, the Hispanic community, continues to influence Milwaukee on a daily basis. First settling in Milwaukee’s South Side in the early 20th century, by the 1950’s Milwaukee’s Hispanic community was flourishing.

Since that time, Milwaukee’s Hispanic community has contributed greatly to its culture and economy. Promoting business development, education, culture and good works, institutions such as the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the United Community Center have become pillars of our city, invaluable assets to our success. A walk through Milwaukee’s south side reveals a great number of murals, educational and religious institutions, restaurants and small businesses.

This is true on a national scale, where Hispanic Americans such as Jose Ferrer, Carlos Noriega, Cesar Chavez and Luis Walter-Alvarez have changed the landscape of American politics, art, academia and more. This success has been accompanied by a growth in the Hispanic American population of our country, and I look forward to further enjoying and celebrating Hispanic American influence, culture, history and heritage in the United States. Happy Hispanic Heritage month!