For many, September now means Hispanic Heritage Month which begins tomorrow and is celebrated from September 15 – October 15. It’s easy to forget that in September 1968, Congress authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim the first National Hispanic Heritage Week, an observance that was expanded in 1988 to a month-long celebration. Why begin a celebration mid-month? President Johnson was from Texas and grateful to the Mexican-American population that had supported him, and Mexico celebrates its independence from Spain on September 16. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Chile also celebrate their independence between Sept. 15 – Oct. 15.
Too often, as we know, celebrations = commercialization so companies use the events to sell their products. Educational publishers can do this too, and I know people can feel cynical about this. Latinos constitute 14% of the U.S. population. Of course, I wish that their voices and contributions were appropriately represented in our history, publishing, universities, sciences, and government, but we have a long way to go. In spite of our national rhetoric (and rhetoric is in season this fall), many in our communities still doubt the full worth of their fellow Latino community members. I see and hear this as I listen and observe Latino children, graduate students and professionals not to mention those Latinos daily facing the challenges of limited economic resources.
Do I wish we didn’t need celebrations like Hispanic Heritage Month and El /El dia de los libros, Children’s Day/Book Day, that Latinos and Asian, Black, Native and Arab Americans were fully incorporated into our national fabric? Sure, but in 2008 I still think we need to make special efforts to promote pride in home languages and cultures. ¡Qué vivan las culturas! May cultures thrive! Let’s share and enjoy books by Latinos during Hispanic Heritage Month and all year long.