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Hispanic Heritage Month begins in the U.S. on Sept. 15 of each year and celebrates several of the independence struggles in Latin America from 1810- through the 1820s.
Spain ruled most of Latin America from 1521 until 1820. The movements of independence from Spanish rule began most notably on Sept. 15, 1810 in Dolores, Mexico with the Grito de Dolores when Fr, Miguel Hidalgo declared Mexico’s independence from Spain. Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates these movements of independence.
2021 marks the 500th Anniversary of the fall of Tenochtitlan, the ancient capital of the Aztecs, today’s Mexico City, and also the 200th Anniversary of Mexican Independence. To commemorate these historical landmarks, the Mexican Government declared 2021 as the Year of Historical Reconciliation. The Consulate General of Mexico in Sacramento is participating in these celebrations with a series of binational cultural events. “500 years of Indigenous Resistance-1521 the fall of Tenochtitlan”, programmed from Aug 16th to 31st. (in Spanish).
There is more about the history further down in this post, but what about this complex and at times confusing term Hispanic?
Hispanic or Latino refers to people in the U.S. from Puerto Rico, Mexico, South or Central America, as well as the indigenous people of the once dominant Spanish empire in the Americas. The majority of these people do not call themselves Hispanic.
The divisions and contentions over the terms Hispanic, Latino, Mexican Americans, Chicanos and others have complex historical antecedents. We are not going to resolve them here.
The development of the term “Hispanic” was promoted by the Nixon administration to describe the collective of the variety of people descended from Latin America. Choosing this term, however, had significant political connotations and results. In general, the use of Hispanic promotes the idea of a broad, inclusive Spanish influence. At the same time it tends to ignore the very vast ethnic and cultural influences of the millions of indigenous people in the Americas.
Some people prefer Hispanic; some would rather use other terms including Latino.
So, what is a person seeking to interact with these communities to do? Relax. Listen to what people say about themselves. You will hear a diversity of terms. First-generation immigrants tend to name their native country — ie. “I am Bolivian, or Argentinian,” while second- and third-generation people use the more universal terms Hispanic or Latino. People who speak only English tend to use Hispanic more, while bilinguals tend to use Latino or other terms. Note: not all Latinos are immigrants, some come from families that were here long before the U.S. claimed the west – such as myself..
One caution Please don’t tell people how to define themselves. They can do that for themselves. It is particularly not our role to define other peoples’ identities. Listen and learn.
On population matters, the results of the 2020 Census for redistricting purposes are just in. The nation’s population is becoming increasingly diverse due to major growth in the Latino, Asian, and multiracial populations and an aging white population that declined for the first time ever.
A total of 331.4 million were tallied in the 2020 Census, an absolute increase of 22.7 million people in the country. The Latino population led the way with slightly more than one of every two persons added to the country’s population through birth or international migration between 2010 and 2020 being Latino. Overall, the Latino population increased by 23% during the decade while the white population declined by 8.6%.
About the history of Hispanic Heritage month we started with.
The war of independence in Mexico lasted until 1821. This challenge to Spanish power in Mexico led to the collapse of Spanish power in the Americas with independence struggles winning in Chile, Columbia, Venezuela , Ecuador and Peru among others. Five Latin American countries; Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua celebrate the anniversaries of their independence on Sept. 15.
After 1810 the independence movements went through several stages. Many of the leaders were imprisoned or executed by forces loyal to Spain including Fr, Hildalgo.
A notable leader in South America was Simon Bolivar who organized and fought for over a decade to liberate the area now part of Chile, Columbia, Venezuela and Peru. By 1820, many of the leaders went beyond a demand for independence and took more radical positions, including the abolition of slavery.
Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth. Burrough, Tomlinson, and Stanford. 2021.
An Indigenous People’s History of the United States. 2014. Roxanne Dunbar- Ortiz. ( formerly a DSA member).
This essay is an update of a piece posted in Democratic Left in 2014.