“It is a time to remember and recognize those Latino Americans who set a foundation for the rest of us to thrive and excel, such as Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Rita Moreno and many others,” Marilitza Zayas, president of the Latino American Student Organization at West Chester University, said. If one is not familiar with some of these names, then now is the perfect time to learn about the largest cultural movement in the United States.
National Hispanic Heritage month started out, lasting only a week when it was first introduced by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. Twenty years later, President Ronald Reagan extended it to last a month to more appropriately recognize the vast contributions the Latino American community has made to American Society.
It starts on the Sept. 15 to commemorate the independence days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. During this month, Mexico also celebrates their independence on Sept. 16. Chile celebrates their independence day as well on Sept. 18.
The inclusion of all these countries in National Latino Heritage month is significant because it embraces the entire Latino community, not just the most publicly visible populations sourcing from Puerto Rico and Mexico. This movement started long before the inception of National Hispanic Heritage week, as have the positive contributions of Hispanic-American residents.
The Latino community has a crucial part in shaping the population and culture of America today. From government offices to office buildings, to radio and television stations, this cultural influence is playing a powerful part in coloring our world. Over 42 million residents are reported living in the United States, making it the largest ethnic group in America. Fifty-three percent of foreign-born Americans are of Latino descent. Between 1997 and 2002, Latino-owned businesses tripled, and 13 states reported having over half a million Hispanic residences, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. So, it is not surprising that the theme of 2007’s Hispanic Heritage month is “Making a Positive Impact on American Society.”
Hispanic Americans are also making waves in the world of higher education. 714,000 Latino Americans were reported as having achieved advanced degrees from graduate school in 2004. It is true, however, according to Collegeboard.com, that only three percent of WCU’s student body consists of students that identify themselves as Hispanic-American.
Students both Latino and non-Latino can recognize the vast contributions the Latino community has made by supporting organizations and events. LASO meets in Sykes 254 on Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m.
“Non-Latino students should take initiative to learn more about our many different cultures and traditions,” Zayas stated.
So crank up some reggaeton on your Ipod, get out and start celebrating. Start by hitting the video store or library and check out some titles suggested by LASO.