Hispanic Heritage Month began in the United States on September 15th with the commemoration of Mexican Independence from Spain in 1810. This is a time in which many Hispanic Americans celebrate their heritage with public festivals and events. In our city of Grand Rapids, the Hispanic festival comes every September. This is also a time, though, for US citizens with European ancestry to be reminded of the significant impact of minority populations on the society and culture of the United States. It’s too easy to forget, if you’re white, that not only has your culture been the dominant one—to which every minority must in some way assimilate—you have also received certain opportunities and priviledges which are not afforded to minorities.
Some say that having “Hispanic Heritage Month” and “Black History Month” is a good way for “The White Man” to sweep minority culture under the rug and forget about them. This may be true. However, the solution is not to abolish these heritage months, I think, but rather to create European Heritage Month as well (not to mention another minority group which has had a significant impact on US culture and society: the Asian peoples). The US was founded on the principle of Europeans denying their own European heritage—is it any surprise that they would further deny the heritage of Africans, (Native) Americans, and Asians (not to mention the plight of Arab-Americans)? Thus I believe this would help us to meet on equal ground and truly have mutual edification between the dominant people groups which have shaped this nation. This might help our cultures truly be multi-cultural, instead of white-dominant, as it is right now.
But what do you think? I think that Hispanic Heritage Month is a good opportunity to build bridges of understanding between cultures. Here’s some things to do:
1. Spend Time With Hispanic People
It’s not too difficult for people of color to interact with white people—they’re everywhere! It’s much harder for the white people to build relationships with people of color, because they often isolate themselves from color by building suburbs and what not. The most important way to build understanding is by a relationship. For a white person, this may take extra effort to find someone who you may not live near. For all people, though, it is difficult to communicate cross-culturally. Hispanics have a hard time understanding Europeans, and Europeans can’t understand African-Americans, and so on. It takes effort. It takes time. A relationship with another person is the best way to begin to understand. White people should always be reminded however, that what they take for granted—their language, their clothes, their food, their thinking, their way of life—is often a foreign world for people of color, who are forced to learn its ways while white people are not forced to learn another culture—since they are dominant. This can change with friendship.
2. Go to a festival or a public event about Hispanic Culture
Very simple! Just look up the Hispanic center in your city and find out when their events are. You can also check the library. A great place to meet a friend!
One great need for the Hispanic community is English language. Usually Hispanic centers have volunteer opportunities in helping immigrants learn English—a subject that most white people are already experts in. If you volunteer, it will be easy to find a friend too! Just make the extra effort and invite that person to coffee/tea/beer.
4. Watch a documentary about Hispanic Culture
This is pretty easy. I went to the library and found about ten to choose from.
5. Read some Hispanic Literature
A very famous work that I’m reading is called Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano, which details the oppression that Latin America has suffered for five centuries under Spanish and the United States and others. More basic information can be found at the Hispanic Heritage Month website, or my favorite, Wikipedia. There are also numerous Hispanic works of literature translated into English.
6. Educate yourself about the role of the United States in Latin America
Most US citizens aren’t aware that the United States invaded Mexico in 1848 on false pretenses and conquered half of their country. They are also unaware that the United States took over Spain’s colonizing role after the Spanish-American War in 1898. They are further unaware, too, that during the 20th century, the United States overthrew multiple democracies and installed vicious dictators in places like Guatamala, Chile, Brazil and Nicaragua. This is what makes many Latin American countries casually refer to the United States as “the empire.” A good place to start is always Wikipedia.
7. Educate yourself about Immigration Reform
Once you know about all this, why don’t you go back to the Hispanic center and ask a Hispanic person what he or she thinks about Immigration Reform? Again: relationships are key. Just listen to a Hispanic person and understand them better. There are also lots of good resources on the website of the United States Catholic Bishops.
What else? What are you going to do? Brothers and sisters of all colors: let’s build bridges between our cultures so that we heal the wounds of the past not only through forgiveness, but real change of hearts, systems, and ways of life.
Written by Timothy Flanders
The post What are YOU going to do for Hispanic Heritage Month? 7 Ideas appeared first on (New Way of Life) and has been syndicated wit permission of the author.
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