Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: E Pluribus Plurum

by Cesar A. Muedas, manager of interpretation and translation services, TLC

Evidently, Hispanic Heritage may mean different things to different people, especially if you are of Hispanic descent. I approach the subject here making reference to a couple of books I have enjoyed reading and sharing with family and friends.

I put American Chica in my daughter’s hands a few summers ago. She finished it weeks before I did. The author, Marie Arana, grew up in Peru – like I did – and – like my daughter’s – her background is mixed: one parent Hispanic, one parent Anglo. Arana’s memoir presents a richness of experiences that cover languages and customs, aspirations and fears, dreams of all types, and our ultimate reality check of being unique individuals living very unique circumstances. Hispanic Heritage, in fact, is connected to a plurality of components (language, geography, race, food, country of origin, religious practices, etc.) among which language is, by far, the common denominator. I choose, indeed, to celebrate the Spanish language because it was my connection to everyone and everything for more than 22 years. In contrast, my daughter won’t hesitate to tell you that her way to celebrate is to cook and share a tasty Ají de Gallina learned from preceding generations of Peruvians in her family tree.

If we were looking for unarguable differences, however, the variable to explore would be the geography connected to your Hispanic Heritage. Central or South America, the Caribbean or Spain, all can become extreme in differences just as you would expect if comparing Anchorage and Miami. Children also learn early in school about the seriousness of defending borders and being a patriot. But such localized nationalism was not always a norm. Mention the name Bolivar and most high schoolers in South America will tell you something about Simon Bolivar, The Liberator. And that is the title of the other book by Marie Arana I wanted to reference: A well-documented biography of the Venezuelan hero that led the war of independence from Spain in the early 19th century. He dreamed of a United States in the southern hemisphere resembling the one in the north. The people he freed chose a plurality of countries, proud and independent, and still very representative of what we celebrate as Hispanic Heritage nowadays.