Vibrant colors. Family-centric. Flavorful foods. These are but a few of the trademarks of Hispanic culture. Each year since 1988, Americans recognize and celebrate the Hispanic and Latino Americans who are descendants of people from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. Their rich heritage, culture and history is the centerpiece of the National Hispanic Heritage Month, observed September 15 – October 15. The work and accomplishments of the Hispanic and Latino communities in the United States are honored through festivals, family gatherings and community events.
Originally, the recognition in the U.S. began in 1968 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation to establish “Hispanic Heritage Week”. Five Central American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua) celebrate their respective Independence Days on September 15. Mexico celebrates its Independence Day on September 16. In 1988, Congress passed legislation to establish an entire month to honor Hispanic heritage. Following this action, President George H.W.Bush issued a presidential proclamation in 1989 to establish “National Hispanic Heritage Month” and it is still celebrated today.
MISO employees Cristina Ruth and Diana Vasquez-Torres share their stories about the pride and joy they feel as Hispanic Americans. Recalling the homes and communities where they grew up inspires warm memories of their families eating delicious Hispanic meals together, going to church and contributing to their communities.
Cristina Ruth, an external affairs employee in Little Rock, and her family are from Mexico and immigrated to southern California when she was six years old. Cristina remembers a huge festival on September 16 (Independence Day) in the town square in Mexico City. National Hispanic Heritage Month has special meaning for her as her sister is an ambassador for the Mexican Consulate in Little Rock. Cristina enjoys attending festivals and teaching her two children about their Hispanic roots.
“I talk to my children a lot about Mexico because I want them to know their culture,” Cristina said. “We eat Mexican food often (my mom makes the best tamales!) and feel great pride in our Mexican heritage.”
Carmel-based engineer Diana Vasquez-Torres was born in Bogota, Colombia, as were her parents. She enjoys celebrations in the Hispanic-owned restaurants where her family and friends gather to enjoy delicious food. Diana has fond feelings about her Catholic faith and has been very involved in the church’s activities. “I grew up close to my cousins and we saw them quite often,” Diana said. She and her two brothers now live in the U.S., and she has two young children of her own.
“It is important for our community to recognize the contributions of the Hispanic people and learn about Hispanic heritage – why it’s celebrated. In my family, community service is very important as is taking good care of your family and the elderly,” Diana added.
The diversity of thought and culture among MISO employees complements the wisdom, collaboration and creativity we share. The next time you enjoy tasty black beans and rice or a delectable chimichanga, remember their Hispanic beginnings. ¡Buen provecho!
To learn more about National Hispanic Heritage Month, visit hispanicheritagemonth.gov.