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This month we honor and celebrate Latinx/a/o Heritage Month and the many contributions and achievements of Latinos in the U.S. and beyond.

According to the Pew Research Center, U.S. Latinos reached 62.1 million in 2020, up from 50.5 million in 2010 or an increase of 23% from 2010.

Latinas/xs/os continue to contribute to American culture in music, arts and culture, sports, medicine, politics, and the list goes on. From the socially driven and influential work of playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda in “Hamilton” to the politically charged writings of Gloria Anzaldúa to the athleticism of Juan Toscan-Anderson (Warriors), to the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), there exists a plethora of influential Latina/x/o individuals who have contributed to the tapestry of humankind in economic, political, social, artistic and meaningful ways. The celebration begins in the middle of September because it coincides with national independence days in several Latin American countries. Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica celebrate their independence on Sept. 15, followed by Mexico on Sept. 16, Chile on Sept. 18 and Belize on Sept. 21.

Should I call this month Hispanic Heritage Month?

The origins of the term “Hispanic” go as far back as the late 1400s when the conquistadors used the term to erase the culture of indigenous communities whose land they stole. In the 1970s, it surfaced from the U.S. Bureau of the Census’ attempt to find a term that would best describe the diverse groups of people who had previously been called “Spanish-speaking” or “Spanish-surnamed.” This was problematic for many reasons: not all included in this group spoke Spanish or had a Spanish surname, and many individuals in this group have no association or desire to be associated with Spain — the country that colonized, conquered, and ravaged many of their countries. The solution: classifying this group as “Spanish/Hispanic Origin.” Why is this problematic? This over-simplistic term erases the wide diversity of people who exist within this community by compressing them into a monolithic group. For some, the term “Latina/x/o” provides a separation from the dark history echoed in the term “Hispanic” and better reflects inclusion of various Latin American countries and sexual orientation. Still, others may use a term rooted in their country of origin (e.g., Mexican, Columbian, Puerto Rican, etc). The bottom line: it is important to recognize each person’s preferred identity and when in doubt, ask.

The genesis of “Hispanic” Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month actually started as a commemorative week, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. It was expanded into a month by a law signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. This was prompted by Representative Esteban E. Torres of California, who proposed a month was needed so the nation could “properly observe and coordinate events and activities to celebrate Hispanic culture and achievement.”

Engage in the following actions:

  • Support local Latina/x/o owned businesses.
  • Attend Latina/x/o heritage celebrations offered this month virtually or in your community.
  • Host a lunch with lectures to explore “Latinidad” and expand your knowledge and understanding of Latinas/xs/os where discussions include busting myths and stereotypes.
  • Provide a resource list of books, podcasts, poets, artists, movies by and about Latina/x/o voices.
  • Donate to an organization that advocates and supports the Latina/x/o community:
    • United We Dream, MALDEF, Voto Latino, Hispanic Heritage Foundation, Latino Community Foundation, Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley, or a local nonprofit in your community serving the Latina/x/o community.

What is Pacific Clinics’ Latino Youth Program and what services are offered?

The Latina/x/o community have the highest suicide rate among any other ethnic group in the United States. The Latino Youth Program, located in Santa Fe Springs, provides individuals ages 16-20 with individual and family therapy, rehabilitative services, case management, medication support services and support group services for parents and caretakers, with the goal of helping these teens and young adults successfully transition into adulthood. We target conditions and behaviors such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, family conflicts, phobias, traumatic events and more. Additionally, we have other programs on our campus to support parents, siblings and other family members, if needed. For more information on the Latino Youth Program, call 1-877-PC-CARES (722-2737).

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