President Lyndon B. Johnson first approved Hispanic Heritage Week back in 1968. President Ronald Reagan expanded that to a 30-day period in 1988. Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. This enables Hispanic-Americans, and everyone else also, to celebrate a month worth of independence days and all those who have had positive influences in our lives. Latin people all over have contributed their talents, their insight and more to help make this a complete world.
Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala all declared their independence Sept. 15. Mexico, Chile and Belize declared their independence Sept. 16, 18 and 21 respectively. I think we can all agree that independence is a big deal. If you’re new to this blog, I spent July discussing independence and freedom. I would include Columbus Day on Oct. 12, but that’s a bit controversial. I’m not even sure how I feel about that day because of the ill-treatment of the natives, etc. Shoot, dear old Columbus never intended to find the Americas anyway haha. It was an accident. Is it usual to celebrate accidents? I suppose in many ways it’s all worked out, but nonetheless, I’m not including it.
Being Mexican-Irish American (yep I’m pretty hot blooded haha – probably why I’m so outspoken on some topics), I love Hispanic Heritage Month. Granted – I love any month, week, day, or even an hour, that celebrates some aspect of humanity that contributes something to the rest of us. I love the hispanic cultures or I should say, Latin cultures. There is, of course, the fiesty, hot-bloodedness, but also the food, the music and typically, Latin cultures are very family oriented. I love that! Even though my family tends to be dysfunctional, I’m a big fan of it, just like my grandpa Max.
I’m definitely Latin and proud (just as I’m proud of my Irish decent but I’m saving that for March). I’ve been challenged a number of times about this fact for a few reasons. I have heard that it’s best to leave any heritage at the door and just be American (by that I mean a U.S. citizen). I agree that focusing on differences doesn’t help us, that’s why there are so many hate groups, etc. But, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with embracing what helps make us who we are. I have Latin blood so why should I deny that? It doesn’t entitle me to act better than anyone else but I sure as hell shouldn’t be ashamed either. I love the idea of different cultures and backgrounds mingling and getting entwined but I also think there’s nothing wrong with holding onto some traditions and keeping elements of cultures alive, given that it’s not used to keep people from coming together. I feel people should enjoy, revel in each other’s differences not just tolerate or ignore.
There’s a reason a good many people love Latin food and music. There’s life to it; there’s a flavor that can’t be reproduced anywhere. It’s spicy… but isn’t that how life should be? There are differences even among the Latin countries. I bet many could tell the difference between a song from Cuba and Mexico. Cuban influenced music will have a variety of percussion instruments and spicy rhythms while Mexican music tends to have a polka feel. There are also Mariachi bands, which is definitely very different from Cuban/Caribbean music. Who doesn’t love a good Mariachi band or a good Cuban beat? There are so many different styles and all of that is reflective of the various cultures that are rich in history. Music is barely scratching the surface on those places and yet it’s a great place to start.
Please note there are many important people who have contributed to our own country including but not limited to: Frieda (artist), Selma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, James Edward Olmos, Cheech Marin, Tony Gonzales (football), Robert Rodriguez, Danny Trejo, Carlos Santana, Lupe Ontiveros, Jimmy Smits, Raul Julia, John Leguizamo, Eva Mendes and the list goes on and on but you get the point.
Today is also the anniversary of Mexican Independence, referred to as “Grito de Delores” or Cry of Delores. On Sept. 16, 1810, Padre Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and several others gathered outside his church and he spoke to the crowd. Apparently, even the priests are feisty in latin countries. He encouraged fighting for their independence from Spain and being able to lead themselves. As with the U.S., actual independence came years later after declaring it, but it was worth it.
Mexico since then has had a very colorful, rich history; not all of it is so good but that’s true of any country. They’ve seen many struggles but they still get by. Okay so they’re considered third world so it’s a bit odd for me to say they get by, but from an outside perspective, I’m not sure they’re all that much worse off than most countries. The poorest folks in Mexico seem more contented than our poor and that’s saying a lot. That’s also an entirely different conversation I won’t be getting into at this moment.
So to a country that, along with many others, provides us with amazing actors, musicians, poets, artists, rich culture, food and music, happy Diez y Seis de Septiembre! Viva Mexico!
And to literally leave on a good note, here’s Antonio Banderas for your listening pleasure from the movie “Deperado” – “Cancion del Mariachi” – he actually does the singing. He’s Spanish but this movie is very Mexican-influenced.