The Latina Book Club is pleased to welcome Julio Ricardo Varela as our Guest Blogger in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Julio brings an important message for all of us.
by Julio Ricardo Varela
Earlier this year, I wrote a blog piece about how being Latino in the United States comes with a lot of baggage. While an event like Hispanic Heritage Month tries to show a group of 54 million strong that is homogenous and united, it is clear that there is a marketing ideal and then there is true. I argued that we Latinos are are own worst enemy. Instead of celebrating our commonalities, we easily fall into the trap that we come from different countries and experiences, and that trap leads to disunity.
Take the case of Hispanic Heritage Month. To some, it is important to be proud of your heritage. To others, it is seen as just a weak attempt to pander to US Latinos. As with any debate, there is truth to both sides of the story. For me, celebrating my heritage is 24.7.365. I don't need a month to tell me something I already know. And that is my point: every day I try to celebrate all that is wonderful about being Latino in this country. If we see amazing work, like the Immigration Project, I talk about it. If I like the posts of pages like The News Taco, P'Alante Latino and Sofrito For Your Soul, I read them and tell the world about them. If I want to shout out the amazing community of LATISM, I do so.
At the same time, I don't forget where I come from. My two grandfathers (one, a Puerto Rican who became a successful businessman with just an 8th grade education; the other, a Italian American who became the most decorated police officer in New York City history and a 20-year US Congressman) both told me: never ever forget where you come from. Always give to others. When you see something you love, celebrate it. And when you see injustice, share that too.
That is my wish for all US Latinos in the 21st century: to go beyond our desire to celebrate our accomplishments, and to actually unify ourselves and become a dynamic part of this amazing country. So for every moment of pride, we must also not stay silent when we hear words like Arizona and Alabama. We must remind this country that US Latinos are a force, we have the ability to bridge cultures, bridge differences, tear down myths that we are just a bunch of foreigners who don't love this country or learn English. But we must never forget where we come from. We can enhance our experiences in this country, but the fact remains, we Latinos are connected in a special way. Let us celebrate that. Every day of the year.
COMMENT: Do leave a comment and let us know how you celebrate your Hispanidad.