National Hispanic Heritage Month increases visibility, representation of distinct cultures


H. Beck, Illustrator

An illustration depicting a dancer twirling in a traditional Folklorico dress. National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates distinct Hispanic cultures from Sept. 15 to Oct 15th.

Ashton McCracken, News Contributor

Executive Director of Casa Latinos Unidos Miriam Cummins said it’s “very important to be acknowledged” during National Hispanic Heritage Month, but recognition shouldn’t stop after the month ends.

Celebrated between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15, National Hispanic Heritage Month was established in 1988 by former President Ronald Reagan to build upon Hispanic Heritage Week. The month aims to acknowledge and commemorate the contributions and distinct cultures of individuals with heritage from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America in the United States.

Cummins described the month’s ability to acknowledge and appreciate the presence of Hispanic minorities in the country.

“[Hispanic people] bring something different to the table,” Cummins said, noting their unique ideas and identities.

However, Cummins explained her difficulties and experiences with the misrepresentation of Hispanic culture. 

“For instance… people think that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s independence day, and that’s not the case,” Cummins said. “It’s Sept. 16.”

Cummins said she wants her children to be proud of their Mexican heritage, but the lack of Hispanic acknowledgment outside of National Hispanic Heritage Month makes celebrating traditions more difficult. 

“One example, for instance, is finding Day of the Dead stuff…,” Cummins said. “That, before a few years ago, [was] so hard to find.”

Cummins also described insufficient acceptance of Hispanic individuals in U.S. society, resulting in a lack of language interpreters and important information available in Spanish. 

In 2011, Cummins worked at the Oregon State University Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, but she said the university didn’t have important documents available in Spanish at that time. As a result, Cummins was responsible for acting as an interpreter for Hispanic students. She said there are similar challenges present in Corvallis, Ore. and Benton County.

“[Equity] wasn’t a priority [for the school]… because it didn’t impact them,” Cummins said. “So when something doesn’t impact you, you don’t see the value of it that you could bring forth.”

Thus, Cummins explained the importance of acknowledging and celebrating cultural differences every day, instead of being limited to a single month. 

“Language shouldn’t be a barrier,” Cummins said.

Cummins acknowledged the improvements made in recent years, specifically the implementation of the JEDI program at OSU for justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

“From the time I arrived [in] 1996 to present…there has been a change in acceptance of the culture and the people,” Cummins said. 

However, Cummins pinpointed the 2016 presidential election as a moment where white acceptance of the Hispanic community “took some steps back.” To move forward again, Cummins said, acknowledging National Hispanic Heritage Month is an important step.

Cummins noted the actions of Casa Latinos Unidos as integral to supporting the Hispanic community and culture in Corvallis. 

“In order to be [on] the same playing field, we need to have organizations like Casa Latinos Unidos to help the community because, otherwise, we’re always going to be under,” Cummins said. 

Cummins asked OSU and the local community to support Casa Latinos Unidos in providing services to Hispanic individuals in need. 

At OSU, the Centro Cultural César Chávez is committed to serving Hispanic and Latinx students. 

“The CCCC provides a space for Latinx students to find a place of belonging on campus,” Teresa Aguilera said, the CCCC’s community relations representative. “Resources for academics and leisure are [also] provided at the center [to help] support students as they transition into college life.”

Resources include educational and community events, career panels and game nights.

“We support the Hispanic community to embrace their identity and get them connected with the resources to be involved at OSU,” Aguilera said.

Rose Rodarte, the student leadership liaison at the CCCC, said Diversity and Cultural Engagement will host various events in April to celebrate Hispanic heritage at OSU. 

Rodarte explained the events will be held in the spring instead of the fall as a result of the school year beginning over a week into National Hispanic Heritage Month.


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