The celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 17:09
Many people have never heard of Hispanic Heritage Month - a month in which Hispanic families celebrate their roots, culture and what they have contributed to the United States of America.
Immigrants have always been an essential part of America, which is generally categorized as a big melting pot and the land of opportunities.
It all began when President Lyndon Johnson approved a Hispanic Heritage Week during his presidency. Later, President Ronald Reagan expanded it into a full month and it was approved into law in 1988. It begins on September 15 and ends on October 15.
According to the Library of Congress website, Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15 in honor of five Central American countries who celebrate their independence on that date. Throughout the month, a total of eight Hispanic nations celebrate their independence day.
Hispanic Heritage Month also honors Christopher Columbus, who led his Spanish conquistadors to the discovery of the Americas on Oct.12, 1492.
According to the Catholic Relief Services website, as of July 1, 2008, Hispanics make up 15 percent of the nation's total population, about 46.9 million. This makes people of Hispanic descent the nation's largest ethnic or race minority and it is also the fastest growing.
The Catholic Relief Services website also states that projections indicate that by July 1, 2050, there will be 132.8 million Hispanics in the United States. That means Hispanics will make up 30 percent of the nation's population.
Many communities with large Latino populations celebrate the month by helping their communities and organizing special events in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Parkland College hosts Club Latino, a club that meets every Thursday at noon in D-145. They discuss different ways of giving back to the community.
The Club assists elementary and high school students. They also find ways to have fun as a group. Club Latino is open to all nationalities and it does not matter whether you are Hispanic or not.
Charles Larenas is an Associate Professor of Education and the Faculty Advisor of Club Latino.
“I was born in Ecuador and I moved to the U.S. when I was about a year and a half old,” Larenas said. “I spoke Spanish at home and my parents would feed us some of the traditional food.”
“I think that we can learn a lot from each other and take some of the good from all over the world to help make society a great place,” Larenas said. “I believe that the diversity of this country helps to make it such a wonderful place to live in.”
Parkland has Latino students from all over North, Central and South America. There is a very diverse Hispanic population on campus.
Pre-Veterinarian Medicine student Carolina Jimenez was born in Bogota, Colombia. She came to the United States when she was seven and is fluent in both English and Spanish.
“I grew up in Colombia so I know a lot about my heritage,” Jimenez said. “We celebrate Colombia’s independence on July 20 and we celebrate Christmas, as well.”
“We actually celebrate the day before Christmas and we go home at five in the morning to open presents,” Jimenez remarked.
Champaign has a growing population of Hispanics. There are 16 states with at least a half-million Hispanic residents. Illinois is one of them.
If you are interested in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, The Art Theater located on 126 W. Church St. in Champaign is having a Latin American Film Festival.It will feature various Hispanic films from September 21-27.
Club Latino continues to organize special events for elementary and high school students. Two weeks ago, students from the club went to Westview Elementary for a parade of nations.
Giving back to the community of Hispanic Heritage Month is very important. It shows the appreciation that Latinos have towards the place they call home.
With this in mind, Club Latino members will be going after school to Leal Elementary and Urbana High School to help mentor students and assist in taking care of children. The club has made a soccer team that plays in a tournament every Friday at Soccer Planet located on 2310 North Willow Road in Urbana.
Juan Portillo, general studies student, is of Mexican decent and was born in Chicago. “Hispanic Heritage to me, means not forgetting your roots and where you came from,” Portillo said. “I like my traditions, I like the festivities and the celebrations we do.”
“Some of my favorites include Las Posadas which is our version of Christmas and the Day of the Dead,” Portillo remarked. “I think speaking Spanish is an advantage because jobs are more likely to hire you if you are bilingual.”
There are many famous Hispanics who have entertained us. Baseball players like Alex Rodriguez, who is of Dominican descent, and comedians such as George Lopez, who is of Mexican descent.
Then there are the heroes. Franklin Chang-Díaz, who is of Costa Rican descent, was the first Hispanic person to enter a space program. He later became an astronaut and has been on six space missions.
Hispanic Heritage Month is a month of celebration, where Latinos come together and celebrate everything that they have accomplished. It doesn’t matter if they come from a big city like Buenos Aires, Argentina or a small town like Huandacareo, they are all proud Hispanics and this is the month where they honor their roots.