By the Rev. Lilian “Luky” Cotto, Eastern PA Conference Coordinator of Latino Ministries**
As a Guatemalan native, I rejoice in sharing a little about the great annual celebration of our Hispanic Heritage. It begins on Sept. 15, the Independence Day of my beautiful Guatemala, “the land of the eternal spring.”
Four more Hispanic nations celebrate their independence days on September 15: Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Mexico’s Independence Day follows on the 16th, Chile on the 18th, and Belize on the 21st.
I have such wonderful memories of the celebration of our independence back home. The fairs, the parades, celebration of the new reign of Guatemala, the food, the games, lots of fun, dances and folklore.
I thank God that in the United States, where many Latinos were not born, we can celebrate our Latino Heritage nationally as Americans for an entire month, thanks to former Presidents Johnson and Reagan. We usually have lots of celebrations all over the country.
Of course, this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, we are not celebrating as much as we usually do. But as resilient people, we do continue to celebrate, even if it is virtually on Zoom or other social media. If you go to Facebook you can find groups performing, celebrating and sharing the pride of their culture and heritage with all. You can also look online for ideas of things to do and examples of worship with a Latino flavor.
LEARN WHY, HOW WE CELEBRATE HISPANIC HERITAGE
Since many of us can’t celebrate together in person, at least we can learn how and why we do celebrate our Hispanic Heritage. I invite you to read “Top 8 Reasons Why and How We Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month,” published by the Smithsonian Learning Lab, or other similar articles.
There are 56.6 million Hispanics in the U.S., making up 17.6 percent of the total population (in July 2015). One in four U.S. children is Hispanic. Hispanics/Latinos have contributed much to American life since the American Revolution, fighting every war since. Today they are business owners, veterans, scientists, physicians, teachers, entertainers and public servants, among many other professions.
Originally, Hispanic Heritage Month was Hispanic Heritage Week, initiated in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson. In 1988, President Reagan extended the celebration to Hispanic Heritage Month for 30 days, from Sept. 15, the independence day of five Central American countries, to Oct. 15.
After the Mexican-American and Spanish-American wars, two treaties granted the U.S. ownership of territories in the Southwest and Puerto Rico, incorporating the peoples there and prompting many to say, “We did not cross the border, the border crossed us.”
Our Hispanic/Latino cultures in the U.S. have produced famous leaders in sports—like the late baseball star and humanitarian Roberto Clemente—in music—like Tito Puente and other pioneers of Latin and Afro-Cuban Jazz—and other arenas of entertainment, but also in politics, religion and education.
Our Latino/Hispanic culture celebrates important special days with religious roots, including Three Kings Day, on the Day of Epiphany, and the Day of the Dead, which, contrary to popular belief, is not about Halloween. Celebrated Nov. 1-2, this occasion is related to All Saints Day and honors family and community members who have passed away. Originally from Mesoamerica, but now celebrated in U.S. Latino communities, the commemoration combines indigenous and Catholic rituals.
There are many more things to learn about us Latinos and also many resources that can help anyone learn more about our Latino heritage and how to celebrate it with Latino flavor in our homes, churches and communities.
Read also “Hispanic-Latino Heritage Month” on the UMC’s Discipleship Ministries website for helpful information and timely worship resources. Also read “Celebrating Hispanic Heritage in the United States,” on the U.S. government’s Share American website.
And enjoy a lively, colorful virtual celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month in YouTube videos featuring songs, dances, poetry and more on the website of the Northfield Public Library in Minnesota.
Read also: “Celebrating Hispanic Heritage amidst everything” by Michelle Maldonado, is the Director of Seeker Advertising and Communications for United Methodist Communications. And find more celebration resources at ResourceUMC’s Hispanic Heritage Month outreach resources.
Finally, be sure to check out: Dreamers Virtual Story-Sharing on Saturday, Oct. 31, 10 to 11:30 AM (on Zoom)
It’s about “Dreamers engaging, connecting and advocating for immigrant justice.” Meet and learn about these young DACA immigrants, lifelong U.S. residents who deserve and are striving to become U.S. citizens. Their conversations will include prayer, biblical-theological discussion, and sharing of their personal experiences, social analysis and a commitment to immigration advocacy in action.
Eastern PA Conference participants may include Bishop Peggy Johnson; the Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, Connectional Ministries Director; and the Rev. Luky Cotto, Coordinator of Latino Ministries. Register online to receive Zoom access link information.
(DACA is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a temporary U.S. hold on deportation of “Dreamers” who were brought to the U.S. as children.)
*Celebrate Our Hispanicity (i.e., our commmunity, identity, culture)
** The Rev. Luky Cotto is also a National Plan for Hispanic Ministry missionary and the pastor of Casa del Pueblo, a Latino ministry and faith community at Lehman Memorial UMC in Hatboro.