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Professor, organizations break down Hispanic Heritage Month

hispanic heritage month

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Hispanic Heritage Month, a nationwide celebration of Hispanic culture and heritage, is made up of the latter half of September and the earlier half of October. 

While “Hispanic” is a general term for individuals who come from Spanish-speaking countries, UH Spanish professor Gabriela Baeza Ventura, broke down why the term can be confusing for some. 

“When you realize that in the U.S. this term has been used to identify and group all Spanish speakers into one category that virtually erases the complexity of Spanish-speakers,” Ventura said. 

“For example, we must understand that for some, Hispanic people in the US, such as those people who lived in North America before 1776, their trajectory as Hispanics includes years of enduring prejudice and discrimination that led them to live as strangers in their native land,” she said. “Their identity is not only tied to the language they speak, it also informs how they are perceived and what rights they have access to.”

Houston is home to about 2.3 million people of either Hispanic or Latino descent, making up about 45 percent of the city’s population. 

“Houston is an important town for Hispanics in general because it is the home of Arte Público Press and the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Program,” Ventura said.

She also serves as the executive editor at Arte Público Press, which is the premiere publishing house for Hispanic people in the United States. 

“Here, authors can write in English and/or Spanish about their culture, identity, history without fear that these stories will be edited to remove or make stereotypes of their identities,” Ventura said. “The Recovery has documented and made available thousands of records that attest to the written legacy of Hispanics in the US.” 

The month celebrates the contributions people like Ventura and her colleagues at the Press have made. 

“It is important to acknowledge the presence and contributions of the people who are often erased or marginalized from mainstream culture and history,” Ventura said. 

She plans to commemorate the month by reading books by Hispanic authors she hasn’t read yet. This year, Ventura will be reading “Santana’s Fairy Tales” by Sarah Rafael García, “Living Beyond Borders: Growing Up Mexican American” by Margarita Longoria and “Song of the Hummingbird” by Graciela Limón.

Others around the University, like Council for Cultural Activities assistant director Laura Delgado-Guzman, plans to give back to organizations that represent her community at the school. 

“CCA helped Hispanic registered student organizations by giving them access to funding for their events that celebrate Hispanic culture,” she said. “We also have promoted awareness on our social media.”

This month is important to her since it gives her community the chance to be seen and represented. 

“It gives my community a space to celebrate different parts of our culture. It’s important to feel recognized and accepted, especially after the last few years of Hispanics feeling ostracized and even persecuted,” Guzman said. 

Guzman encourages others to partake in celebrations, but also reminds people to be mindful of how they represent their community.

“One thing that I can think of is to celebrate the culture but not dress up as caricatures with sombreros and zarapes,” Guzman said. 

Ventura also encourages celebrations, but also reminds people to think deeply of how they see Hispanics. 

“We should not conflate the term Hispanic with immigrant,” Ventura said. “Because in doing so, it erases the long history of Hispanics in North America.”

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