‘Someday, America will have a continental voice, the voice of a united people, a voice that will be respected and heard because it will be the voice of the people who are masters of their own destiny. ‘Salvador Allende, former Chilean president
This year we’re stepping away from ‘Hispanic Heritage Month’ (HHM) and reclaiming our stories from the corporate elites who reduce our gente to simplistic images that fail to reflect the depth of our identities.
Instead we’re celebrating HHM as “Herencia, Historia, Mijente” — highlighting our cultura, the politics that shape our lives, and the experiences of our gente and ancestors. Throughout the month, we’ll be sharing more on the rich complexity of Latinx identities, experiences, and contributions, including our thoughts on the ways they’ve been co-opted and how we intend to reclaim the space.
Going Beyond Performative Holidays
We are the experts of our own stories and they are incredibly vast and diverse. We are so much more than the narratives that have been sold to us by political leaders who too often ignore our demands and settle instead on the simple hard-worker portrayal.
At Mijente, we believe it’s critical to bridge the gap between those in power and those whose rights are being oppressed. In sharing our experiences, our traditions, and hopes for the future, we put the power back in the hands of the people.
Here’s a little on the history of the traditional HHM and why we’re taking a step away from it.
Independence and the Reality of U.S. Influence
“Hispanic Heritage Month” begins on September 15 to mark the anniversary of independence for the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, and the respective independence dates of Mexico and Chile on September 16 and 18.
Still, it’s all too clear that despite independence over colonization, US intervention in Latin America has caused incredible damage to our gente. Today, many of our communities, including those in the US, still carry the socio economic burdens of US-influenced destabilization. And we can’t forget that Puerto Rico has consistently been denied their fair chance at choosing independence from the US. Their status as an “unincorporated territory of the United States” (just a fancy way of saying “colonization”) continues to result in environmental degradation, government mismanagement, and increasing economic instability.
Contradictions and Complexities
Ironically, within the month of HHM falls the controversial and traditionally ‘celebrated’ holiday formerly known as Columbus Day, representing the infamous colonizer Christopher Columbus. Today, we recognize the day as Indigenous People’s Day, choosing to center the legacy of Indigenous communities, both in the US and in Latin America, instead of genocide and white supremacy.
Another contentious aspect of HHM lies in the name itself, with the identity marker of “Hispanic”. For starters, the term ‘Hispanic’ only includes those who descend from countries colonized by Spain. Additionally, the term has been used with the goal of creating one uniform identity – and, as we’ve shared time and time again, our communities are not a monolith.
There is no ‘one’ or ‘right’ way of being Hispanic or Latinx, and the pressures of assimilation – from both the countries that colonized our ancestors and the US – diminish our power and our stories. At Mijente we know that those who identify as Latinx or Chicanx (and the many other names we call ourselves by) hold an infinite number of other identities, and that those too shape our experiences, relationships, and place in the world.
And as with many other cultural holidays, the traditional HHM tends to be a time where many corporations and politicians decide to lift up Latinx history and culture – after effectively neglecting, ignoring, and exploiting us the other 11 months of the year.
Our Core and Alternative Celebration
Today, and everyday, we celebrate the resilience, organizing, and leadership of our people. Through our version of HHM month – Herencia, Historia, Mijente – we’ll be sharing profiles of Latinx organizers and cultural leaders, along with resources of recipes, playlists, and fun facts and educational content.
We’re excited to offer this alternative celebration, and the opportunity to dive deeper into our diverse cultures, both shared and beautifully distinct.