Latinx Heritage Month: Discourses in the contemporary setting

How do we celebrate old traditions in the 21st century?


Christian Carlo Ceguerra

Today’s dialogues include acknowledging trans people in the Latinx Community.

On Sept. 15, the country started to commemorate the Latinx Heritage Month (originally Hispanic Heritage Month), a celebration dedicated to the members of the community whose ancestors originated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. This commemoration originated with several Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua celebrating their national Independence Days on Sept. 15, followed by Mexico and Chile’s on Sept. 16 and 18 respectively, and the Columbus Day on Oct. 12, all occurring within the 30-day period, and are therefore observed to be celebrated at the start at the second half of September up to the first half of October.
“Hispanic Heritage Month” was first observed as the name of the festivity but was changed to “Latinx Heritage Month” as the trend of using Latinx by scholars and the academe have given light to gender inclusivity. However, research shows only 3% of the Hispanic population use “Latinx” to identify themselves, with the majority preferring to use the words “Hispanic” or “Latino”.
The name of the celebration is used interchangeably between “Hispanic” or “Latino” Heritage Month due to its population which are Hispanics people who speak Spanish and Latinos descendants of people from Latin America.

Localizing the event
The Associated Students of Skyline College (ASSC), the college’s student governing body, lead this year’s Latinx Heritage Month, organizing events in a virtual manner. ASSC’s Commissioner of Activities Ellaine Arroyo discussed how the celebration could have been different if it were not for COVID-19.

“If the situation is different, the ASSC could have connected more with our peers and faculty to have people join our events,” Arroyo said, explaining that in-person interaction would have encouraged more people to come, and would have made the planning of the events different.
“The initial plan would probably be similar to how we celebrated Latinx Heritage Month last year, but with more events than what we finalized for this year due to COVID-19,” Arroyo said.
Arroyo mentioned one of the difficulties they faced is promotion and outreach but was secured and handled accordingly with the instructors making announcements and spreading the word in their Canvas pages.

On Intersectionality
On Sept. 23, ASSC hosted an event titled “Celebrando La Identidad Interseccional (Celebrating Intersectional Identities) within the Latinx Community”. Gia Cordova spearheaded the forum as the guest speaker and discussed important dialogues about intersectionality inside the spectrum of the Latinx community. Cordova is a transgender activist and a Latinx cultural practitioner who is also part of Transgender Law Center, the largest transgender-led organization grounded by legal expertise.

Cordova presented four ways non-trans folks can show for trans people:
1. Looking around and commemorating the works and efforts of organizers and movement builders, as well as artists, poets, our family, and community. (“Celebrating our people: Bringing everyone to the table.”)
2. Understanding that gender is a social construct and deconstructing is a way towards gender justice. (“Building a foundation — Where can we start?”)
3. Machismo and patriarchy as forces that pushed trans people out of community. (“Here at home are trans folks — We’ve always been here.”)
4. Allyship is acknowledging names and pronouns, passing the mic as to when to speak up or listen, and breaking down our own internal gender binary. (“Showing Up 4 Trans Folks: What can allyship look like?”)
During the question and answers, Cordova was asked how to integrate events as safe spaces. Cordova said that having forms and registrations asking for pronouns could be a great way for people to know that organizers care and are welcoming towards their identity.
When asked about her insight with people using biology as rhetoric against in the discourse, Cordova said that biology is used as a weapon against trans people.
“Gender and biology have a complicated relationship, and oftentimes biology is used against trans folks to erase what we say and what we experience,” Cordova said. “For me, I know who I am and I don’t think biology can erase that.”
Cordova also paid honor to Sylvia Rivera, a gay liberation and transgender rights activist who was part of the 1969 Stonewall Riot and fought alongside Marsha P. Johnson. Cordova also mentioned how Sylvia Rivera played a pivotal role of advocating rights of trans people of color, sex workers, drag queens, and “people who did not fit the mold.”
Among the audience was Vincent Chandler, who is an associate professor inside the academe. He described Cordova as “the most kind” as she presented on Zoom without any of the audience speaking or opening their cameras.
“It’s a tough being the speaker — You might feel like you’re just coming into a community or situation, not having as much verbal cues as who you see in your audience, but that didn’t seem to faze the speaker,” said Chandler, who teaches communication studies.
Chandler brought up the importance of having these topics brought into light, and not having to see these discussions as taboo.
“No one wants to feel like who they are needs a special accommodation,” Chandler said, explaining how people who accept and support your identity, but keep you hidden to stay away from trouble, do not make one an ally, but an enabler.
“If the taboo is removed, and if (there’s) the option to have these conversations, for example, to be able to change your name … That’s a big deal,” he said. “It can potentially allow for less anxiety, more of a sense of belonging, and everything that the speaker talked about today.”

Significance and moral
For Alexis Lopez, a multiracial Skyline College Student, celebrating Latinx Heritage Month is significant, as it celebrates who she is and her cultures, and it pays homage to her ancestors and their sacrifices to provide what was best for them and their descendants. One of the favorite things she liked about the commemoration is being able to perform in front of the city hall in South San Francisco.
“I do Mexican folk dance,” Lopez said. “Performing was a huge part of Hispanic Heritage Month.”
Lopez believes that commemorating Latinx Heritage Month is an opportunity to reflect where the country stands towards Hispanics and Latinx.
“Racism still lives, and it never really died down,” Lopez said. “You want to show off and be proud of where you come from, but there is that slight chance that one person will tell you to go back to your country or tell you to ‘speak English, because this is America.’”
Professor Vincent Chandler also gave his sentiment in connecting his ancestors’ plight to what the community is still facing today.
“Dominion and domination over a group — always, always, always — that part of humanity I’ll never understand,” Chandler said. “I can’t understand the interest that those in power have to make sure certain groups are kept a certain way. I don’t have to believe that I’m less than because of a certain aspect of my identity. And it’s powerful to be more critically conscious about who we are and how we are in this world so that we see that we’re not actually less than that. They’re perhaps sick and delusional that they buy into that power structure.”
The aforementioned Ellaine Arroyo believes that learning ethnic history from heritage months or classes will be beneficial to learn each other’s cultures, understand other people’s perspectives, and to fully educate ourselves to be open-minded and more united as a community.
“We see from their stories that not everyone has equal access to educational resources and opportunities to succeed; therefore mental health challenges arise and affect how they view themselves in their society due to their background and/or status,” Arroyo said, pertaining to the celebration’s opening event, where Dean of Counseling Luis Escobar and Student Equity and Division Assistant Martin Marquez shared their educational experiences as part of the Latinx Community. “The worst thing that could happen if we are not being educated about ethnic history/identity is that we can continue having a bias or prejudice towards a certain group of people, which affects how we treat others everywhere.”
According to the 2019 Pew Research report, there are currently 60.6 million Hispanics in the country, amounting to 18% of the whole US population. In research released by the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), it was revealed that the Hispanic community in the United States “has contributed significantly to US economic growth in recent decades and will continue to do so over the next 10 to 20 years.” With the Hispanic educational attainment soaring to an average of below college graduation, it is likely for it to increase and have their “skills profile” match the rest of the US population. Such inferences led for the researchers’ analysis that the community “will in the future earn the same wages as the rest of the country, on average … (and) will continue to contribute to US economic growth from increases in employed labor in the coming decades.”
The Latinx Heritage Month celebration started with the event “Latinx Student Success,” with Dr. Luis Escobar and Martin Marquez. In partnership with Puente Learning Community, the ASSC launched their mini digital museum, “Heritage Items from La Casa”, for students to share their heritage through household items. The ASSC also hold their digital community ofrendas for students, faculty, staffs, and the admin to honor the memory their loved one. The celebration will end with “Noche de Entretenmiento” (Evening Student Event) on Oct. 14 from 6 pm to 8 pm.