“Hispanic Heritage Month” May Be Imperfect, but It’s Necessary

The amount of people who seem totally oblivious to the fact that Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off today, or that it even exists, is actually astounding.

I find myself in awe with the amount of carelessness that even some of my activist white friends display when not bothering to even concern themselves with knowing that the people they oftentimes stand on behalf of at rallies, actually have a month where we get to celebrate our vast communities.

This is why Hispanic Heritage Month is necessary. I was raised in a primarily Latinx city, Miami, which boasts having 70-something percent of the population at our command. I remember that migration meant learning a lot of new things; one thing I learned was that I was Hispanic and I also learned that we had a month to celebrate all of what that meant. In my primarily Latinx elementary school, composed of mostly immigrants, Hispanic Heritage Month meant that we got to become even more Latinxs, for a day. We brought our various countries dishes and we all dressed in our respective festival outfits. Hispanic Heritage Month meant food and trajes tipicos. Hispanic Heritage Month did not mean much more than that, for me.

But then I moved to Nashville, and I felt a need to assert my Latinidad in The South. Lest I forget, because when you find yourself surrounded by another culture you have to do everything in your power to hold onto your own culture or you will lose it. On the one hand, the population of Latinxs is about 4 percent here, so Hispanic Heritage Month meant I got to see and celebrate our growing numbers despite what felt like erasure in Nashville. And one the other hand, if we are talking about racial issues we are usually only talking about white and black racial tensions. In The South nothing else seems to matter to anyone, and we are all Mexican. Hispanic Heritage Month meant that I got to remind myself that I was more than one monolithic community but also revel in our badassery as a whole.

Now as an adult, Hispanic Heritage Month means that I get to hold in tension the fucked up categorization of entire communities into one title that not all of us have consented to being called: Hispanic. But also acknowledging that on this month I get to perform unapologetically my entire being and I get to call out anyone who does not know, because in their privilege they do not have to know, that on this month we celebrate the Indigenous diaspora that is Latinidad in North America, specifically the United States.

I call Hispanic Heritage Month La Raza Month, and even Latinx Month. I call this month whatever the hell I need to call it, because although I oftentimes reject Hispanic as a categorizing term I fully embrace the necessity of this month. Hispanic Heritage Month is the month I remind you and myself that we are powerful and resilient. Hispanic Heritage Month is the month I get to celebrate all of our accomplishments, despite attempted genocide and colonization. Hispanic Heritage Month is the one-month out of the year where I get to remind you, boldly, that we matter and that we exist.

It is becoming “trendy” to adhere to a Latinx audience. Companies are branching out with their “Hispanic divisions” and marketing is being targeted toward us in a very aggressive way. And Hispanic Heritage Month can oftentimes feel convoluted in the subversive tactics to get you to consume and be consumed, as both a desirable client for companies but also as a desirable ethnicity, in general. Yet at the core of this month there is survival written all over it, and there are those of us who need this month, so Hispanic Heritage Month is our saving grace.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a necessity, and a lot of institutions are beginning to acknowledge that very real need. And as we stand in acknowledgement of our entire existence, remember that Hispanic Heritage Month is not about one community but rather is it about realizing and accepting how vast and complex our varied cultures are within the Latinx narrative.