Hispanic Heritage month recognizes culture, society

Regina Garcia Cano

This year’s observance urges Hispanics to get involved,

“Getting involved: our family, our community and our nation” – the theme for this year’s National Hispanic Heritage month that begins today – conveys different meanings to Hispanics.

For senior nursing major Yessica Flores, the message calls for Hispanics to seek a higher education.

“If we all get education … we can be better in our society, and that way we can make an impact on the Latino community,” she said.

In recognition of the cultural, social and economic contributions of Hispanics to the American society, the United States celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

“This is our nation, our new country, so we need to get involved,” Flores said.

In Fall 2007, 2.2 percent of Kent State’s student population had Hispanic heritage, according to Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness.

Steve Michael, vice provost for diversity, said he believes the Commission on Inclusion, established by President Lester Lefton, will recommend creating outreach programs targeted to minorities.

Michael said because of budget restraints the university lost two recruiters who worked closely with Hispanic and black communities.

Ezra Escudero, director of the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs, said about 3 percent of Ohio’s population has Hispanic background.

Escudero said OCHLA is aware of the several prejudices associated with the Hispanic community and believes education is key to dispel those stereotypes.

“We have been working to increase the awareness within administrators and educators to better and more proactively address the needs of Hispanic Ohioans,” Escudero said. “Primarily, we’ve been focused on strengthening the community’s ability to address concerns dealing with cultural competencies, English language acquisition and parental involvement.”

According to the National Council of La Raza, 45.5 million Hispanics live in the United States. NCLR is an association aimed at improving civil rights of Hispanics in the U.S.

Escudero said Hispanics should find a balance between their Hispanic and American cultures.

“(Hispanics) have a dual responsibility, not only to preserve our cultural heritage, but also to make sure that we learn English and the heritage of the United States,” Escudero said. “It’s not a matter of choosing one (culture) or the other.

“We can really celebrate the best of both and make our contribution to this country.”

But bridging cultures is not limited to Hispanics. Some students without Hispanic heritage show an interest in learning the Hispanic culture.

Luis Hermosilla, associate professor of Spanish, said a group of Kent State students has done community service at the Hartville Migrant Center. Students helped Hispanics with language and cultural issues.

Escudero said Hispanics also have made important economic contributions to Ohio over the years.

“We (Hispanics) have thousands of entrepreneurs around the state and hundreds of Latino-owned businesses generating revenues and creating jobs for all Ohioans,” Escudero said. “Also, there has been Latino participation in the agricultural sector for decades, particularly in northern and northwest Ohio.”

According to the 2008 proclamation by President George W. Bush, National Hispanic Heritage Month also honors Hispanic-Americans that have fought for the U.S. army.

President Lyndon Johnson established Hispanic Heritage Week. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded the celebration to a 30-day period. During this month, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence. Columbus Day or Día de la Raza is also observed in this time frame.

Contact minority affairs reporter Regina Garcia Cano at [email protected].