As I See It

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

This issue has an emphasis on the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. It was established in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson. The celebration was actually expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to be a 30-day celebration from September 15 to October 15.
This time of the month is important because it was during this time that six Latin American countries and Mexico got their independence.
The term “Hispanic” was coined during the census in the Nixon Administration. It is what sociologists call a “ Pan-ethnic” term. It includes peoples tracing their ethnicity back to Mexico, Latin America, Central America and other Spanish-speaking populations.
So, this month, we are not celebrating one culture but many that share the common factor or thread of being the Spanish language. During this period, we will celebrate both differences and commonalities. This very fact reminds me how this is reflective of the American culture in general.
A wonderful friend of mine, Manuel Valentine, once said to me, “America is like a big fruit salad. It has strawberries, mangos, apples, nuts, watermelons and cantaloupes. They are all mixed together. Each fruit has its own delicious identity, but the combination makes the salad better than its individual parts. It is the combination of the flavors that make the whole better than eating the fruits individually.”
If we think of all the ethnic groups celebrating their cultures and histories, we should appreciate that these many cultures make America better as a whole. We must not allow our different cultures to divide us and turn us against each other. We must take the best of each one of our cultures, the fruits of our differences, and combine them to make a better America.
After all, none of us are truly separated. We are all children of creation. We are all brothers and sisters. America was founded on the principal that all men are created equal and given rights not by government but by their creator. It is because of this very concept that America can be so tolerant.
We are this great fruit salad – all different flavors, each contributing to the whole, giving America its free and vibrant personality.
If we divide ourselves, if the strawberries are hated because of their seeds, the watermelon is too sweet, the mangos are a little sour and we each complain about the differences, we will lose the beautiful flavor of the combinations of our differences.
So, over the next 30 days, produce the fruits of understanding. Look, love and laugh at the differences we all have. Let us help protect each other’s history, and yet combine to make an American history of which we can be proud.

Graham Hetrick

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