Hispanic Heritage Month: Is the Label Hispanic Exclusionary?
Written by: Sophia da Silva 🇧🇷
The Latinx Heritage Month Kickoff Cookout at Mckeldin Mall at the University of Maryland on Sept. 16, 2022. (Yessica Mayo)
Hispanic Heritage Month is the official federal designation for the month-long celebration during mid-September to mid-October for all Americans of Latin American descent.
Last semester Latinx student groups at the University of Maryland conducted many activities to celebrate the month. There was a distinct choice to conduct all these activities under the term “Latinx”.
Sophomore journalism major Evony Salmeron appreciates the conversations around the term Latino versus Hispanic, as “a lot of people just think that they're just synonymous with each other.” The way we refer to our community has been a debate for years.
Senior journalism major Vincent Petroni, an Argentinian-American, talks about how restrictive terms and celebrations like these can be.
“There seems to be a lot of like cultures placed into one,” said Petroni.
Students dancing bachata at the Latinx Heritage Month Kickoff Cookout at Mckeldin Mall at the University of Maryland
on Sept. 16, 2022. (Alexa Figueroa)
Petroni also mentions how these terms can feel like an Americanization. That “Latino” is a concept made for the U.S. In our own countries, we are not Latino, we are our nationality.
“When you go to Argentina, you’re not Latino, you’re Argentino,” said Petroni.
In Petroni’s experience, he usually doesn’t attend Latinx events because they tend to represent different Latin American cultures rather than his own.
“I appreciate them because I think they're really fun, but they just don't seem to represent my culture,” said Petroni. “I kind of feel lonely going and like stepping into a culture I don't really know, even though I am also Latino.”
Sophomore government and politics major Andrea da Silva thinks there is still work to be done regarding inclusion but thinks UMD is doing a good job.
The events held during the month were authentic and celebrated many aspects of the Latinx community. That being said, there was little recognition of her Brazilian community and culture. Ultimately, she feels there are more important things Latinos share than the terms they use.
“You can be Hispanic and Latino or Hispanic or Latino but at the end of the day all our struggles and successes are unified and are joined,” said da Silva.
For others, like senior family science major Maria Reyes and sophomore neuroscience major Raquel Chaupiz, these events offer a lot of support.
“I think that it's a great thing to have in our campus, just because I feel like it brings more inclusion to Hispanic students,” said Reyes.
Reyes talked about the Closing Gala event that she attended in October 2022. The speaker that night, State Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk, discussed first-generation experiences that many Latinx students can identify with.
“I feel supported and then I also feel like I'm in a community where people can relate to me,” said Reyes.
Chaupiz sees these events as important to share the diversity and similarities of the community and even offer a learning opportunity to those outside of the community. It was also a learning opportunity for herself
“I didn't really grow up in a household that had a lot of cultural regards in terms of my Latin roots or Hispanic origin and so hearing it from other people, even who have, like Spanish speaking households, it's just nice to hear about,” said Chaupiz.