National Hispanic Heritage Month is here … Let us celebrate!

Every year we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Do you know how it started? Do you know why?

It started as a week of celebration in 1968 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1988, Congress amended the original resolution and officialized an entire month. The following year, President George H.W. Bush issued a proclamation to establish National Hispanic Heritage Month. Each year, until now, all presidents have issued yearly proclamations to recognize the contributions, culture and vital role played by Hispanic-Americans, Latinos and Latinx in the United States.

The Hispanic Heritage Month celebration is from September 15 through October 15. It begins in the middle of the month to coincide with the national Independence Days of various Latin American countries – Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica all celebrate on September 15; Mexico on September 16, Chile on September 18; and Belize on September 21.

Since celebrations occur in different ways and we often think about important moments marking special days, important places, and specific events, my first Hispanic Heritage Month celebration comes to mind. As an international student learning English and living in New Jersey, my English teacher took me and four other students on a field trip to New York City. During the trip, we visited a Latino art exhibit at the public library and then we went to the famous Bryant Park. On that day, I experienced my first Latino Festival! There was food from various Latin American countries, dance performances and live music. What a fun day!

One of the things I have come to realize during my years living here is the importance of having access to information in one’s own language.

For example, the event mentioned above happened because I saw a flyer on the university library’s board promoting it. The flyer was in English and Spanish, and I took it to my teacher to ask for details. As a student from a Latin American country, I was not familiar with this type of celebration. My teacher explained the background of the event and organized the trip.

There are many reasons to celebrate.

Celebrations often are held to recognize milestones, successes, or achievements. One defining personal achievement for me is that for over 15 years through my job, as a business owner and through community involvement, I have been able to serve individuals with Limited English Proficiency helping them bridge the gap in breaking down barriers of communication, connecting them to available good and services and being supportive in their acculturation process.

In addition, I would like to express my gratitude to all the businesses and individuals that support and maintain efforts to keep access to information in other languages especially while in the process of learning English. Being in a new country, experiencing a new culture and learning a new language is an event with lasting impressions in anyone’s life. Thank you and let us keep up the good work!

During this month, Women Leading Kentucky will feature special writings contributed by other Latinas in Kentucky. Stay tuned!

About the Author: Elisa E. Bruce is the director of Housing Education and Counseling at REACH, Inc. She is the founder/owner of iiWA, LLC. Elisa also enjoys dancing, and she shared a lovely picture of herself in action to introduce this blog post.