The nation celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month now through Oct. 15

The rhythmic sounds of salsa, merengue, and cumbia fill the air and entice the movements and the psyches of all who hear. Burgers and fries are cast aside to make room for fried plantains dusted lightly with salt and tender carne asada.


While the rest of the country focuses on illegal immigration and deportation, the Latin American community’s thoughts shift to the beloved Cuban singer Celia Cruz, the Argentinean revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the celebrated South American liberator Simon Bolívar and others who have made innumerable contributions to the Hispanic community and the world during National Hispanic Heritage month, Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.


In 1968, Congress deemed the week of Sept. 15 National Hispanic Heritage Week to celebrate the contributions and achievements of the diverse cultures within the Hispanic community.


In 1988, the event was expanded to a month, which includes El Día de la Raza on Oct. 12, which celebrates the influences of the people who came after Christopher Columbus and the multicultural, multiethnic society that evolved as a result.


The dates of Hispanic Heritage Month were selected to include the Independence Day celebrations of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Belize and Chile. Each year a different theme for the month is selected and a poster is created to reflect that theme. This year’s theme is "Hispanic American: Strong and Colorful Thread in the American Fabric."


As people of Hispanic descent attend the many cultural celebrations being held throughout the country to celebrate the rich traditions of Latin people, the concept of diversity is never lost. Betzabe Rosas, a Washingtonian of Mexican descent, said, “I highly believe in diversity. I think we should celebrate everybody. I think that every month we should celebrate a different group of people.”


From Spain to Puerto Rico, Costa Rica to Ecuador, members of the Hispanic community use this month as an opportunity to remind everyone of the diverse cultures that exist with in the Hispanic communities.


Esperanza Paz, a native of Cali, Colombia, works as administrator for the District of Columbia’s public school system. She said, “Americans don’t understand that [the concept of being] Latino is not simply Mexican. Latinos are from different countries. The way that we talk, the way that we behave, and even the way we think differs from country to country.”


Hispanic Americans make up the largest minority in the United States. Analysts project that by the year 2050, the Hispanic population in the United States will almost double in size.


As the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of immigrants become more closely connected with American culture, life, traditions and values, the Latino community views Hispanic Heritage Month as an opportunity to preserve their homeland traditions and customs.


Herman Ramos and his wife Yolanda Ramos, both natives of El Salvador, attend the D.C. Fiesta, an annual Hispanic Heritage Month event sponsored by the Cultural Institute of Mexico. To Herman, it is important to celebrate Latin American culture and history “so that we don’t lose our culture or forget where we come from.” His wife nodded in agreement.