National Hispanic Heritage Month began Sept. 15 and will run through Oct. 15. It is a time to recognize and celebrate people who hail from Mexico, parts of the Caribbean, Central and South America and Spain.
MOSAIC Coordinator Joyner Atiles-Lopez, who was born in Puerto Rico and moved with his family to Florida when he was 4 years old, said, “This is a month to celebrate our cultures, origins and contributions as well as a time to reconnect and gather with our community.”
Hispanic Heritage Month is not only a time to celebrate but also a time to reflect on issues facing Hispanic and Latin communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Hispanic and Latin workers especially hard, according to Atiles-Lopez.
“Some of the industries that were hit the hardest because of the pandemic have a workforce that is largely comprised of Latinx workers. As a result of this, many families within the Latinx community are facing economic hardship, even if they have now been able to return to work,” Atiles-Lopez said.
Other issues facing Hispanic and Latin communities include mental health, representation in the media, immigration, toxic masculinity and LGBTQ+ discrimination.
“We have to use the attention and platform our community receives during this month to advocate and educate ourselves and those who do not hold this identity,” Atiles-Lopez said.
In recent years, there have been discussions among Hispanic and Latin communities over changing the name Hispanic Heritage Month. The term Hispanic refers to Spain and other Spanish-speaking nations and excludes those who may speak other languages or have more diverse backgrounds.
“At its root, the term Hispanic refers to a person with ancestry from a country whose primary language is Spanish. Latin, on the other hand, is a term rooted more in geographical location focusing in on roots in Latin America. For example, if used in their original context, someone from Brazil would be considered Latin but not Hispanic because Portuguese is their primary language,” Atiles-Lopez said.
He believes that a name change is in order. “Language is key and the more identities within our community that we can celebrate, put on a platform, and welcome in, the better. Our countries are so diverse and rich and we must make it clear that this is not a month to exclude but rather to gather and celebrate us all.”
There have also been discussions among Hispanic and Latin communities over normalizing the term Latinx.
“Latinx is an inclusive and gender neutral term used to encompass all genders represented in the Latin community in addition to individuals who identify as Latina or Latino.
By using this term, we not only operate as more inclusive individuals and signal to those within the community that do not identify within the gender binary that they are valued but it is also an act of resistance and advocacy every time it is used,” Atiles-Lopez said.
Some members of the Latin community have also advocated to normalize the term Latine.
“[Latinx] is a term originating and primarily used by Americans with Latin American backgrounds. Due to its origination, many individuals in Latin countries are either resisting the term or advocating for Latine to be used instead as it is felt that the ‘e’ operates within the principles of the language and is gender neutral,” Atiles-Lopez said.
MOSAIC will host several events during the upcoming weeks to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month. These events include a community rally, an evolving language series, a conversation about colorism in the Latinx community and more.