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An Outlook on Hispanic Heritage Month

Addie Reiter and Mahlet Samuel

Hispanic Heritage Month is going o right now, from September 15th to October 15th. The celebration of this month is something new for Dalimar Collazo Otero, the ELL para educator or the aide to her department and the building translator for Spanish and English.

“For me [this month is] something really new because we don’t celebrate [it] in Puerto Rico, being a Hispanic country,” Collazo Otero said. “For me here [the significance of it is] getting together with other students and talking about cultures and traditions and living through them.”

Collazo Otero explains the main objectives of celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in GEHS as bringing the kids together and showing how they, and their differences in culture, are important.

“For me, it’s bringing our kids together and also showing how they’re important. Their differences in culture are important as well,” Collazo Otero said. “And, for them to get to live a few days where they can expose us to their country is important to me too. For them to maintain their culture and their inheritance here, even if they’re really far away from their countries.”

To commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month here at GEHS, Matthew Mayeske, a social studies teacher at GEHS, organized a contest for the seminar classes to participate in.

“Mr. Mayeske organizes a door decoration that the seminar classes can participate in, they create [a] door to represent Hispanic Heritage Month,” Collazo Otero said.

According to Collazo Otero, things that are important in Hispanic culture can vary depending on the country. Even some Spanish words are not the same in every country.

“Even if we speak Spanish, not all the words mean the same in each country. So that’s something that I find kind of funny with my students,” Collazo Otero said. “We have a lot of cultural differences between each of the Hispanic countries as well. For example, the Mexicans are more spicy, while the Caribbean’s [are] more salty.”

Collazo Otero thinks it is important to address how many Hispanic people come from very different backgrounds and how they have different stories on how they got to the United States.

“In, many ways some [Hispanics] come from very different backgrounds, [and] many of them have different stories on how they got [to the United States and] how they [made] so many sacrifices to be here,” Collazo Otero said.

Collazo Otero talks about discrimination, saying that it still happens, in some form, today.

“Still, to this day, some of us, even including me, still receive some type of discrimination. So that’s still something that worries me,” Collazo Otero said.

Although Collazo Otero is not in Puerto Rico right now, she still maintains some of the traditions she did there, here.

“We also celebrate Dia de los Reyes, that’s Three Kings Day. So that’s something that I still maintain here even if I’m not in Puerto Rico,” Collazo Otero said.

Collazo Otero believes that for people to learn more about Hispanic culture and history, they first need to have an open mind.

“First of all, [one needs to] have an open mind and want to be exposed to learning about other cultures, not just their own,” Collazo Otero said.

Brooke Wardle, one of the Spanish I teachers here at GEHS, talks about how Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the history of important Hispanic and Latino people and the celebration of Latin American Independence Days.

“Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the history of important Hispanic and Latino influencers as well as the celebration of a bunch of Latin American countries’ independence days, similar to how the United States has celebrations like July 4th and things,” Wardle said.

According to Wardle, Hispanic History Month is celebrated from September 15th through October 15th as opposed to the first to the first because of the days of independence of many Latin American countries.

“You start off the bat right [on] September 15th and you have a bunch of Latin American countries, each [with] a certain day that their independence is celebrated,” Wardle said. “September 16th recognizes not only, but the biggest one is Mexico’s Independence Day, and you have certain dates for each of those and how they align.”

The Spanish club that started at GEHS this year began commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month with a fiesta/grito.

“We just started our Spanish club this year, and we started up with a fiesta/grito,” Wardle said. “The grito is significant to the Mexican Independence Day, where it recognizes the cry for independence. That’s what grito means.”

Bright colors, art pieces like papel picado, and different foods are all important in Hispanic culture according to Wardle.

“I will say a lot of colores, a lot of bright colors [are important in Hispanic culture],” Wardle said. “A neat art piece, I even have some in my room, is papel picado, which are what we would think [of] as colored construction paper that they stamp in or cut out images in. Comida is different, food is different. There’s different foods for each thing.”

Wardle believes that one of the main objectives of celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in GEHS is to be culturally aware.

“I just like to tell my classes it’s always good to be culturally aware. Especially because we live in a time period where even our society is always influenced by culture and other people’s backgrounds,” Wardle said. “And, as well as just [recognizing] the impact that Hispanics and Latinos have in our society as a whole.”

Wardle personally celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month by reading Spanish books, listening to Spanish music, celebrating with her Spanish teacher friends, and learning with her students.

“I really like to read Spanish books, that’s my favorite thing to do. I like to listen to a lot of music as well,” Wardle said. “[But] I get more of my celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month through my Spanish teacher friends, or just [by] enjoying that time of learning with my students one-on-one.”

One misconception about Hispanic culture that Wardle states is that many students assume that it is one big fiesta, but there is a lot of hardship in it.

“I think the biggest thing is that a lot of students will just assume it’s one big fiesta, one big party when that’s sometimes the case, and sometimes how we recognize it to get kids more interested in the topic, but there was a lot of hardship,” Wardle said.

There are some good books, movies, and works of art that give information on or represent Hispanic heritage correctly.

“A good book that I actually just read over the summer by Sandra Cisneros is The House on Mango Street,” Wardle said. “It’s a set of poems that kind of talks through [Cisneros’] life. [Also] Selena Quintanilla, the movie Selena is very popular, [it’s] about a Tejano musician. There’s a lot of influential [art] pieces within [Pablo Picasso’s] time realm [as well], and even after.”

There are many resources for people to learn more about Hispanic culture and history, including watching Spanish movies on Netflix and looking through and watching a movie or TV show from the Hispanic Heritage Month genre on Hulu.

“There is an abundance of resources anywhere you go,” Wardle said. “There’s a bunch of shows via Netflix. I know that Hulu specifically does a Hispanic Heritage Month genre. [Also] Coco, while it has some not-so-nonfiction parts to it, it does showcase a lot about [Hispanic culture]. I believe [that] the library has a little setup and selection as well.”

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About the Contributor
Mahlet Samuel
Mahlet Samuel, Reporter
Mahlet  is a sophomore who likes to cook and bake. Her favorite color is pink and she enjoys reading a good book.

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