Celebrating Tremendous Diversity Within an Already Diverse Group

By Rafael Sanchez, United Way board chair
As many people know, September 15 thru October 15 is known as Hispanic Heritage month (“HHM”), where we celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of Hispanics and Latinos in the United States. If I am being completely honest, having been born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, I did not know exactly what HHM was or meant when I moved to Indiana back in 1996. I mean, at the risk of stating the obvious there is no such thing as HHM in Puerto Rico, any more than Cinco de Mayo is not really a huge thing in Mexico—it is simply the day after May 4th. (Well kind of…the date marks the Mexican Army’s victory at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Many people mistakenly confuse Cinco de Mayo as Mexico’s Independence Day, which is actually celebrated on September 16, but that’s a story for another day).
I did some quick research and found out that HHM initially spanned only one week and started in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson. President Ronald Reagan subsequently expanded it in 1988 to cover the current 30-day period. Every sitting U.S. President has recognized it ever since. Apparently, there are quite a few historical dates/celebrations in several Hispanic countries during that 30-day window so that’s how HHM got started. Who knew?
Setting aside the quick history lesson, here is what you really need to know. There are at least 22 Spanish-speaking countries in the world. Each has their own unique background, history, culture, traditions, and perspectives. While the Spanish language and many facets of history and culture unite us, we are far from homogeneous. Stated differently, there is tremendous diversity within this already diverse group—and that’s a good thing. We have a growing number of Hispanics/Latinos in Central Indiana and I am privileged to know and collaborate with many of them. I witness first-hand how they bring their passion, talents, and different perspectives and experiences to make our communities a better place. Diversity breeds innovation and progress. We are better when we listen to different perspectives and exchange ideas that challenge our way of thinking.
I am all for celebrating HHM and elevating the Hispanic/Latino community during that period. But let’s challenge ourselves to recognize and celebrate diversity every day. I challenge you to think about and celebrate diversity beyond the “officially-designated” months of celebration. We owe it to ourselves and the future generation to create a truly inclusive community that welcomes all forms of diversity every single day of the year. Only then, will HHM not be needed.