Hispanic Heritage Month offers educational opportunity for all
By Jasmeen Rivera
If it seems that you are being inundated with media messages about Hispanics--you are.
National Hispanic Heritage Month kicked off Sept. 15 and will run through Oct. 15. The event is meant to honor the accomplishments and achievements of the Hispanic-American community. While most celebrations would begin at the start of the month, Sept. 15 is a significant day in history because it is a nod to the independence gained by Latin American countries including Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.
Hispanics or Latinos comprise 18.5 percent of the U.S. population, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. Hispanic refers to people who speak Spanish and/or are descended from Spanish-speaking populations, while Latino refers to people who are from or descended from people from Latin America, according to the Hispanic Network magazine.
Not surprisingly, the month-long celebration incorporates various aspects of Hispanic culture including people, food, history, art, music, and so much more. These events range across the globe in numerous countries, each one different and specifically suited to their region. During this time, notable figures are recognized including Frida Kahlo (Mexican), Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rican), Sonia Sotomayor (Puerto Rican) and Gloria Estefan (Cuban). Additionally, Hispanic Heritage Month allows the military to honor the Hispanic veterans who have served their country.
At Bethune-Cookman University, there are a number of students, faculty and staff that are of Hispanic heritage. Still, with a student population that is only 4.27 percent of Hispanic, it is easy to feel out of touch with one's native culture. Coming from a household surrounded by Hispanic culture to constant dorms and classrooms where you are suddenly in the minority can create a sense of disconnection. To wit, B-CU was home to a Hispanic club for several years called "HOLA," but it was dismantled when the leader left the school.
So, this time of the year comforts those far from home with familiarity and community.
"Being Mexican and being so far from home, I definitely do feel disconnected and detached from my Hispanic heritage," said Isabella Sandoval, who lives in Azusa, California.
"At home, I am constantly surrounded by Mexican-Americans and I also live in a city that is predominately Hispanic," Sandoval said. "However, it is also nice to see how the Hispanic culture is here during this time of the month and it is very eye opening."
Sandoval said at home her family marks Hispanic Heritage Month with home cooked meals, music and family gatherings.
Meanwhile, Dr. Salvador R. Victor, chairman of the department of mass communications department, said he is weary of the fact that Hispanics are too often viewed as a monolith or single group.
"One size does not fit all," said Victor, who also is program director for DOMC's public relations and advertising students. Every country and Hispanic person is unique, he said. For example, he noted, one stereotype among Americans is that all Hispanics eat tacos. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Victor said "profiling and stereotyping" makes Americans seem narrow minded to believe that one size fits all. It's such a narrow way of thinking."
Being Hispanic is a benefit--not a setback, said Victor, who is a native of the Dominican Republic. "Something that I tell all of my students is that being bilingual is an asset," he said. "You have more opportunities to find a job if you are bilingual or trilingual."
He also challenged Hispanics to help educate other Americans about their culture and heritage.
Jasmeen Rivera is a native of Costa Rica and a member of the B-CU softball team. "I chose B-CU because I felt it had everything I was looking for in a school I wanted to play for," she says.
FAST FACTS ABOUT HISPANICS IN THE SUNSHINE STATE:
*Florida has the third largest population of Hispanics in the nation, with more than 4 million residing in the state. Twenty-three percent of Florida's population is Hispanic.
*At least 60% of Hispanics reside in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties.
*The majority of Florida's Hispanics trace their heritage to Cuba, Puerto Rico, or Mexico. In addition, the percentage of individuals from Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic is growing.
*U.S Hispanic Chamber of Commerce estimates more than 266,000 Hispanic businesses operating in Florida, ranking the Sunshine State third behind California and Texas.
*Goods produced in Florida account for 23% of all U.S. exports to Latin American and the Caribbean - higher than any other state.
Source: Florida Department of Education