IASJ Celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month
September 15, 2023 – Aaron Acosta
Today marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage month, and IASJ wants to celebrate and honor our Hispanic and Latinx brothers and sisters who have played a fundamental role in the construction of our country. As a Latino, I am particularly moved by the beauty and the struggle that marks the Hispanic and Latinx experience in the US.
National Hispanic Heritage month, which started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage week, is a time to celebrate “the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.” At the height of the Latinx civil rights movement, 1968 was the year in which Latinx high school students in Los Angeles staged mass walkouts for the unequal treatment they received at school. Latinx students were often punished for speaking Spanish, not allowed to use the bathroom during lunch, and discouraged from attending college. The collective voice of Latinx students brought about positive school reforms.
Just three years prior, Dolores Huerta, along with Cesar Chavez, co-founded the United Farm Workers, which would become the largest and most important farm worker union in the nation. She would eventually coin the emblematic phrase, Sí se puede (“Yes, it can be done”), also commonly translated as “Yes we can,” during the union’s fight for the rights of farmworkers.
Throughout the decades, Hispanics and Latinxs have harnessed their collective voice to effect societal change. They have brought to the US their rich cultures, foods, and strong work ethic. Hispanics and Latinxs in the US number around 62 million people, making them the largest minority population in the country. Far from being a monolithic group, the diversity within Hispanic and Latinx cultures is abundant, a veritable melting pot of foods, dialects, religions, and beliefs that span continents, centuries, races. But, despite these beautiful differences, Hispanics and Latinxs have learned to harness their collective identity to fight for justice and equity.
As we celebrate our Hispanic and Latinx brothers and sisters, it is worth mentioning that today, September 15, also marks the beginning of a historical strike by the United Auto Workers (UAW) against the Big Three automakers: Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. At a time such as this, let us remember the contributions of Hispanic and Latinxs to organized labor and workers’ rights. Let us stand with our black and brown brothers and sister autoworkers, and all other autoworkers, in their fight for a more equitable and just future. And, let us be inspired by the power of collective action as a force for positive change. To all our Hispanic and Latinx brothers and sisters, we appreciate all your hard work and tenacity, and your vibrancy and your passion. Your positive contributions have made the US what it is today, and your ongoing struggles will continue to make the US a better place for all. Sí se puede!
Aaron Acosta and the IASJ Team