If you don't know what or when Hispanic Heritage Month is, you’re not alone. Hispanic Heritage Month spans from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, and its end is quickly approaching. Fear not, there are still ways you can celebrate until then.
Signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, National Hispanic Heritage Month is intended to be spent “paying tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.”
Many Hispanics call UT home. As of Fall 2016, the University reported that Hispanics make up 20 percent of UT’s student profile. With the presence Hispanics have on campus, one might think Hispanic Heritage Month would be more widely addressed.
Mallory Laurel, the communications and outreach coordinator for the Department of Latina/o Studies, said there is minimal recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month because her department is investigating whether they should even celebrate it. This is due to the history behind the term “Hispanic” and what heritage encapsulates, as well as how to deal with the fact that many companies use the month to pander to Hispanics.
Though Laurel and the department have reservations about celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, they do not want to inhibit the awareness and education the month brings. As a result, the department has held events since Sept. 15, but they were not advertised as Hispanic Heritage Month events.
According to Laurel, the department also believes every month is Hispanic Heritage Month, so they're redundant to celebrate it officially. However, Laurel also said students at UT should feel welcome to celebrate the month and what it means to them.
Luke Hernandez, a government, Mexican American and Latina/o Studies junior, said he celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month by hosting events with Latinx Community Affairs as well as attending events held by the Latina/o Studies Department. Since the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, the department’s events have included “Heritage for Sale? Reimagining Hispanic Heritage Month,” the Hispanic Heritage Month Concert by the Butler School of Music, a pop-up pachanga and a lecture on decolonization.
Students can either participate or acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month by simply taking time to stop at the Cesar Chavez statue on West Mall and remember his contributions to our nation. Chavez was a civil rights activist who spent his life fighting to better conditions for farm workers.
If you were not aware that the statue on West Mall is of Cesar Chavez, or if you do not know who he was, it’s not too late to learn. Both Laurel and Hernandez said many students have heard of Chavez, but aren’t aware of his relevance.
“You either haven’t been taught about (Hispanic figures) in Texas schools, or they’re a footnote in books.” Laurel said. “There are many sad reasons why students don’t know figures like him. It’s not surprising to hear some people don’t know him.”
Hernandez believes those willing to acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month should celebrate Chavez, but also bring light to the feminist Latinx organizers. “People know of Cesar Chavez but not the women who made the movement possible and maintained it regardless of historical credit,” Hernandez said.
Taking time to learn about Chavez is one way to celebrate the heritage, but one should not stop there. Laurel invites students to turn to the Department of Latina/o Studies’ programming for more information and guidance on Hispanic history and to be aware of the current issues and struggles surrounding the Latinx community.
Torres is a Plan II, English & creative writing junior from San Antonio.