National Hispanic Heritage Month: Origin, Significance, and Intention
For the past four weeks I have sought to explore the origin, significance, and intention of National Hispanic Heritage Month.
From a legislative perspective, in the first blog I traced National Hispanic Heritage Month’s origins to remarks made by Representative George E. Brown of California about creating National Hispanic Heritage Week. Those remarks defined why Hispanic Heritage Month is split between the months of September and October and revealed the intention behind creating Nation Hispanic Heritage Month: celebrating a treasured American tradition.
“It is in the tradition of our country to recognize, cherish, and conserve the many cultural contributions of the people who have helped achieve the greatness of our Nation.” House Joint Resolution 1299, June 11, 1968
In his speech, Representative Brown discussed the importance of recognizing Medal of Honor recipients of Hispanic Heritage, which I discussed in the second blog. In my opinion, we don’t honor them solely because they are of Hispanic Heritage, but because they showed beyond a shadow of any conceivable doubt that they are American. As lieutenant colonel Alfred V. Rascon is often quoted, “I’m an immigrant by birth and American by choice." Yes, they are of Hispanic Heritage. But, first and foremost, they are American Heroes who contributed to the greatness of this nation by showing their courage and risking their lives beyond the call of duty.
Representative Brown also highlighted how several of the States bear Hispanic names and the origin of these names is captured in the third blog. Hispanic culture has provided basic and fundamental building blocks for these States.
In the final blog, I explored the contributions to this great country of Dr. Chang- Díaz, who has been a personal hero since I was young. During his induction to the Astronaut Hall of Fame, Dr. Chang- Díaz said:
“Today, I’m most thankful to this great nation that in 1968 opened the doors for me, a dreamer that came to the shores of this country, and this country opened the doors to the land of opportunity, to the American dream. I can say that I have fulfilled that dream.”
Growing up as an illegal immigrant, I understood that the odds of achieving the American Dream were slim. But I always kept the example of Dr. Chang- Díaz as a North Star to guide my way. If he achieved it, so can I.
There are many people of Hispanic Heritage who find themselves in a similar situation I was in 20 years ago – wishing to be given a chance to contribute to this great country and achieving the American Dream. To those people I say: keep your head up and continue to contribute your grain of sand.
I don’t believe celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month is about paying politically correct lip service and making a show of being diverse. I believe National Hispanic Heritage Month is about taking a step back and acknowledging, truly acknowledging, that people of Hispanic Heritage have undoubtfully played a role in making this country great: from contributing to the naming of various States, going beyond the call of duty in active combat, to exploring outer space.
Julio Navarro is a member of the firm’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee and the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey.