Maria J. Fierro-Treviño
In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson declared the observation of Hispanic Heritage Week. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan designated September 15 to October 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month. This observation salutes over 50 million Hispanics living in the United States. Many Hispanics still maintain their language, customs, and traditions, but it has been a struggle to do so.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate the people and their contributions, traditions, and customs. We celebrate all individuals who have persevered and have made contributions at all levels of American society. I use the word “persevered” as in a not to distance past, Hispanics were not permitted to speak Spanish in school and other public places nor did they have the same privileges as other Americans.
In order to succeed, “Hispanics had to stop being Hispanics.” Parents realized their children had to assimilate into American society or they would never be able to achieve their full potential. As a result, many Hispanics lost their language and traditions. Others were able to maintain both to a certain degree since their parents did not speak English, and thus continued to interact in their native environment. Today we are seeing the ramifications of that assimilation. We have Hispanics in positions at all levels of government and businesses who can barely speak Spanish, speak a blend of Spanish and English, or speak no Spanish at all.
We have come full circle and currently Spanish is the number one language taught in American schools. Hispanics want to study Spanish to recover and/or enhance their language, customs, and traditions. With the millions of Hispanics in the United States and over 388 million Spanish-speakers in 20 Spanish-speaking countries, non-Hispanics want to learn Spanish to be able to compete in the global economy.
Hispanics have made notable impressions in all aspects of society, and some of their traditions have become part of American culture.