Beyond the Mic: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Every year, Americans observe Hispanic Heritage Month, beginning on September 15 and ending on October 15. Hispanic and Latinx communities have contributed in tangible and meaningful ways for decades, especially within media. For example, did you know Desi Arnaz, the beloved Ricky Ricardo, is credited with developing the multi-cam sitcom setup that is still used today? However, wasn’t until 1968 that Hispanics and Latinx were properly acknowledged when Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed the very first Hispanic Heritage Week. 20 years later, it was expanded from a week to a month to give people adequate time to properly celebrate all our triumphs.

The month-long celebration begins on a significant day as September 15 marks the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence right after them on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Then, before the festivities are over, we have Día de la Raza, which is on October 12 (in lieu of Christopher Columbus Day). On this day, Hispanics and Latinx come together to celebrate their cultures and traditions despite European colonization.

Hispanics and Latinx have such a rich culture that is shared among millions of people from different regions that speak different languages and dialects, but you wouldn’t know it from the characters that are portrayed in media. Growing up, I watched the television shows my parents watched. Shows like Roseanne, Seinfeld, Friends, Golden Girls, and Three’s Company on Nick at Nite. Other than catching some scandalous stories on Primer Impacto or El Gordo y La Flaca, I didn’t see a lot of Latinx characters on tv, and the ones that I did always seemed so exaggerated and more than likely criminal. The loud neighbor, the drug dealer, the bus boy. You get the picture.

Unfortunately, type casting is a common theme for a lot of minorities. We don’t truly see ourselves represented; when we do, it doesn’t leave the most pleasant taste in our mouths. You see the same actors play the same characters because those are the roles available (like that guy that always plays a gangster. You know the one I’m talking about). Personally, I think it was so common to have films that lacked diversity within their casts that I didn’t notice we weren’t in the movies until I watched America Ferrera in her feature film debut as Ana Garcia in Real Women Have Curves — a film that is now recognized by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation In the United States National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. For me, it felt like a game changer. This was a film that was made about us for us by people like us, and it was evident in every scene. I felt seen!

When we are allowed to tell our stories in our own way, the authenticity comes through, and you get smash hits like Encanto and Selena. This is the same for Latinx creators that are coming up in podcasts and Youtube. According to Edison Research, Latinx make up about 25% of podcast listeners (47% of which agreed it was important to a degree that the podcasts they listen to include stories and perspectives from their countries of origin).

Here are a couple of content creators that are shining a positive light on our culture and all that we have to offer.

My Recommendations:

Latina to Latina is an interview series hosted by Alicia Menendez. In each episode, she “talks to remarkable Latinas about making it, faking it and everything in between.” I particularly loved Cristela Alonzo’s interview where she talks about dealing with imposter syndrome and this notion that even though we work hard, we still feel unworthy of what we receive. Although each episode is different, the message is very clear. We are here, and we are more powerful than we think.

Back in 2019, a new YouTube star was on the rise. Her name — Doña Angela. She suddenly became a grandmother to all through her Youtube channel De mi Rancho a Tu Cocina. Here, she shares her recipes that honestly make me homesick for my youth. Watching her videos brought me back to the days when I would sit at the kitchen table while my own abuelita would work her magic on the stove making meals with humble ingredients. Everyone that has seen her videos seems to fall in love with her and her food. Recently, her viewership even surpassed those of Gordon Ramsey and Martha Stewart, and is the fourth most popular cooking channel on Youtube.

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