In this segment of Centric Commemorates, Jazmin Olivares shares her story about National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Part of our Centric Commemorates series.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the cultures, contributions and accomplishments made to the U.S. by those who trace their ancestry to Spanish-speaking countries such as Mexico, Spain, Central and South America and parts of the Caribbean.
The celebration started as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, kicking off on September 15 and ending on October 15.
For me, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time for self-reflection and education. Being a first-generation Mexican American has had its obstacles, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. My journey and experiences have taught me the power of empathy, and most importantly, family.
My parents moved to the U.S. from Mexico to give my sister and me more opportunities, though this was easier said than done. I had to grow up very quickly because my family was different. I struggled with English and used flashcards to help me communicate at an early age.
However, I never felt like I didn’t belong – not until the first time I heard someone say it.
I was riding the bus home in elementary school. It was cold and there was snow everywhere. Two older kids, who rode the bus with me daily, approached me and asked to see my backpack. I didn’t think anything of it and showed it off not knowing what would follow. The kids proceeded to cut my bag to pieces while telling me their parents said my kind didn’t belong.
Imagine hearing that as a kid. I slipped off the bus – and ended up in the snow, crying. Until that moment, nobody had made me feel different.
While that wasn’t the last time I experienced that kind of hateful speech or action, experiences like that one taught me the power of empathy and the importance of learning about other cultures – what makes us unique but also the same.
It’s helped me appreciate all the amazing, culturally diverse people I’ve met throughout my life and continue to meet. I pride myself on being able to celebrate multiple cultures and all they have to offer – especially the food!
Learning about the history and significance of different cultures does not happen overnight. It’s an ongoing process. However, being willing to start that journey is an important first step to supporting a society built on mutual respect and admiration for diversity.
— Intro and Story by Jazmin Olivares, Operations Manager, St. Louis
Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month
To commemorate the rich history of Hispanic and Latinx Americans, be sure to check out some resources below, as well as local activities and events happening in your city in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month!
- The Hispanic Museum & Library is hosting a series of live online events and programs throughout the month. Find the listing here.
- The Smithsonian Latino Center has compiled Hispanic Heritage Month resources including online exhibitions, videos and stories of Latino achievement. Click here to dive into their resources.
- PBS is airing documentaries, episodes, and short films to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Click here to check them out.
Through these stories, we’ll seek to learn, understand, and empathize. We’ll celebrate our differences and realize that though we have varied backgrounds and perspectives, we are one team.