Reflections from Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month & Día de los Muertos

From September 15th to October 15th, is Hispanic Heritage Month. Then, October 31st is Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. These events are very important in the Hispanic and Latinx communities, so I sat down with identifying students to hear what they had to say about being Hispanic/Latinx, celebrating traditions, and living life in between cultures.

Being Hispanic

“I am proud to be Hispanic.”

Jimena Medina

What should people be doing to bring awareness to Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month?

“Hispanic culture should be appreciated more and taught more, like, in schools, so people are able to learn more about our different cultures because not all Hispanic countries have the same customs and traditions. And like, different words can mean completely different things in other countries. Everything is different, and I just feel like we need to take the time to appreciate all of the different ones because it’s something very beautiful. And my [issue] with Hispanic Heritage Month is that it’s not even a full month. It’s half of one month and half of the other.”

For me, being Hispanic is one of the most amazing things. The culture and the community (and the food!) is so rich and diverse. I’m proud to be black, don’t get me wrong, but being Hispanic has given me this life of fullness. Many of the experiences that define me have occurred because I am Hispanic. My quinceañera, for example; that was one of the most important, special days of my life, and it’s only something celebrated in Hispanic and Latinx culture. The values and customs that being Hispanic has instilled in me are why I’m proud to be who I am.

Life in Between

“For biracial kids, it’s hard to find a balance.”

Diego Mendez

What is it like being biracial?

“Well, I’m half Caucasian, and I’m half Guatemalan because my dad’s Guatemalan. It’s like when I’m around white people, I’m too Hispanic, but then, when I’m around Hispanic people, I’m too white.”

Do you speak Spanish?

“Um, a little bit, yeah. I do, but I definitely feel like it’s not the best, but, like, when I’m around Hispanics, I feel kinda nervous because I feel like they judge me.”

As someone who is also biracial (black and Hispanic), I relate to Diego’s experiences. Being Hispanic and not being able to speak the language, is hard. There’s this shame that you feel because people exclude you, and you feel like an outcast in your own family.

Does your parents relationship status affect you?

“Well, my parents are divorced, so I live with my mom. But not living with my dad, I don’t get to be around that Hispanic culture, so I’m almost shocked, or like, surprised when I go back to it because I’ll have forgotten certain things.”

Does having divorced parents add a layer of division and separation?

“It would say it does. It’s almost like a double life for me since they’re not blended together, like, having divorced parents. When I’m with my mom, I can act a certain way, and just American culture, in general, is just easier for me. Especially being in an environment where I can speak English, which I’m way more comfortable with versus when I’m with my dad, hardly anybody knows English. It’s all Spanish, and I really just struggle more, so it’s definitely a separate life.”

My parents are also divorced, so it is hard to balance the cultures. Sometimes when I’m with my dad and his family, I do things differently and act differently than I would if I were with my mom or her family. I’ve been asked before if switching between cultures is hard, and I would say that it is— to an extent. I have gotten used to it, so I can do it easily, but it’s given me a false sense of identity. Everyone struggles with their identity at some point in their lives, but for me, I don’t think I’ll ever not struggle with it. I will never be a whole; I’m two separate, but equal parts. And it’s hard.

Día de los Muertos

“It’s very important to me.”

E Dye

What is Día de los Muertos?

“So, Dia de los Muertos is the Day of the Dead. It is a celebration of our ancestors and understanding what they were n their past life and remembering them. It’s the one day of the year where our ancestors can wake from their eternal sleep and come see us and our extended family.”

How do you celebrate this day?

“Um, we celebrate by setting up an ofrenda or an altera, and we offer offerings or food that they liked in their past life, and we set up photographs, and we also put up a flower called marigolds. And they lead the way to the altera or the ofrenda.”

Why is Día de los Muertos important to you?

“Um, it’s very important to me because I don’t get to see those family members anymore, especially the ones that I was really connected to and it’s just a way to feel their presence and connect with them in a deeper and different way.”

I hope reading these accounts and testimonies from your peers helped you understand or learn something about a new culture that maybe you hadn’t considered before, and I hope everyone had a wonderful Hispanic Heritage month and Día de los Muertos!

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