Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Each year, the U.S. celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15th through October 15th. It is a time of celebration, recognition, and appreciation for the contributions and influence of prominent figures in the Hispanic community, from the courageous labor activist Dolores Huerta, who coined the rallying cry “Si Se Puede,” to the likes of Alfonso Cuarón, an Academy Award-winning film director. You can find Hispanics making an impact in every sector. This annual celebration dates back to the late 1960s with Hispanic Heritage Week, which was later extended in 1988 to Hispanic Heritage Month. The specific dates are to encompass the anniversaries of independence by several countries in late September, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile.

Usually, when a community is nationally celebrated it is because they have been marginalized despite their important contributions, and the Hispanic community is no different. Many people come to the United States in search of the American Dream, in pursuit of a better future for their families. It takes courage and many sacrifices to come to a foreign place where you may not know the language or the people. At times it seems as if the U.S. has forgotten the core values of inclusivity and opportunity, instead prioritizing politics, power, and greed. This is particularly relevant as we have seen an influx of mostly Hispanic migrants entering New York City in recent months, some of whom have been mistreated or used as political pawns by elected officials. Everyone should at the very least be granted a fair chance and the benefit of the doubt without stereotypes or xenophobia.

Due to persistent systemic racism and economic disparities, Black and Hispanic/Latinx New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by homelessness: 29 percent of NYC residents identify as Hispanic, but 32 percent of households sleeping in NYC Department of Homeless Services shelters last year were Hispanic. According to NBC News, Hispanics are almost 19 percent of the U.S. population, and their participation in the labor force is significantly higher than that of non-Latinx Whites. By 2060, one of every three U.S. workers is projected to be Hispanic. However, Hispanics are significantly underrepresented in above-average-paying positions and are often paid less in the same fields as Whites, and they may face discrimination in receiving a loan from a bank to start a business. These data highlight the need for continued work to achieve equity.

Coalition for the Homeless helps homeless and low-income New Yorkers, including many members of the Hispanic/Latinx community, through advocacy and direct services – supporting efforts for communal empowerment through job training, client advocacy, donation drives, youth programs, and more.

Lastly, Hispanic Heritage Month reminds us to stand up for what we believe in, to celebrate our wins, but not lose sight of what our struggles have taught us, and to live life passionately and boldly as we honor our communities and culture. Happy Hispanic Heritage Month today, tomorrow, and always!

Pa’ la Cultura! (For the culture!)