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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage

“Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures”. ―Cesar Chavez

In the fall of 2020, University of Illinois at Chicago’s student enrollment showed that of all the students enrolled that semester, 34% considered themselves Hispanic. In the city of Chicago, throughout the years of 2015 to 2019, 28.8% of the city’s population considered themselves Hispanic. With such a large chunk of the city and especially our UIC community identifying as Hispanic, I find it incredible that there is still so much confusion surrounding the definition of Hispanic, and little awareness surrounding Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15th).

The United States Census Bureau defines Hispanic as referring to “a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish-speaking culture or origin regardless of race.” However, the problem with this definition is that it can lead a lot of people to confusion on what exactly their racial and ethnic identity is. Someone from the island of Haiti is Latino, but would technically not be considered Hispanic because they do not come from a Spanish-speaking region. When examining census data, one must be reminded that many people identify solely as Black or Indigenous or “Other” because of this ambiguous definition.

What this means is that there are far more Hispanic people who are part of our population than statistics represent. With this reality, the responsibility of celebrating and bringing awareness to Hispanic Heritage Month is much more important, due to being a month highlighting the history, culture, and existence of a significant part of our population. Going forward, I urge you to find ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month within your community. Here at UIC we have:

  1. The Rafael Cintron Ortiz Latino Cultural Center. The main focus of this center is for people to learn about Latinx culture and heritage, and become an advocate of social and environmental justice.

  2. The Latin American Recruitment and Educational Services Program (LARES). LARES exists to help recruit and provide academic support for Latinx students.

  3. Latino Student Organizations.  These organizations include specific affinity groups as well as fraternal orders in order to provide support and student involvement for Latinx students.

And the list goes on! There are many more resources here at UIC whose mission is to celebrate, support, and provide education on Hispanic/Latinx heritage and culture. The reason organizations and celebratory months like this are needed is not only to highlight the richness of these cultures, but also to remember the impact on these affected communities from the past actions of the United States. Many have had to fatally fight for the opportunity to celebrate from where they come. Therefore, while enjoying the music, food, and art of the diverse Hispanic cultures being celebrated this month, one must also be reminded of the history and traditions allowing for this celebration.


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