Sept. 15: the start of a month-long party that celebrates a rich culture. We like to call this time period Hispanic Heritage Month. That is 31 days of honoring the legacy that our ancestors have left us, and our culture that sets us apart from the rest of the world. From our tan skin to our delicious food, it’s something that should be appreciated all 365 days of the year, but for now, we can settle with this warm month of fall and make the most of it.
This year, I decided to take a moment and focus on other young Hispanas like myself who attend Oswego High School. It’s about time that we put the spotlight on the generations of our hardworking Hispanas and listen to what they have to say. By doing this, we can make it up to our abuelitas that lacked the opportunity to make their voices heard, paving the way for generations yet to come.
As Hispanic women, we live in a constant shadow as minorities. Getting to the same point requires double the amount of effort and determination. Something may take others five steps, but for us it requires 10. This inequity is impossible to change overnight, but by bringing light to the situation, it creates some hope for us in the future. Being born into a Hispanic community has a huge impact in a Hispana’s life, and many female Hispanic students and staff feel the same way.
“I obviously have to work hard, but I have to work harder because of my background,” Ari Calderon, a senior Step team and OATS member at OHS, says in relation to how her background affects her everyday life. She also shares that her heritage allows her to connect with other members of the Step Team because they all have similar backgrounds.
Being Hispanic requires doing things a different way.
“I’ve had to do things differently because of the color of my skin,” junior Madison Mata, who is involved in Show Choir and is on the board for Standing O, says.
Mata’s ethnicity has led to some issues in theater involving costuming, especially when it comes to her hair.
“It doesn’t work for us,” she says, referring to a situation where the majority of the group wanted to wear straight hair for their performance. Different textures of hair are very common in Hispanic and Black students, which can make it hard to achieve the same hairstyles as someone with “traditional” straight hair.
Arianna Calderon also contributed to this argument by adding a quick reminder for girls with textured hair. “I’m very proud of my hair now. My hair is beautiful, their hair is beautiful, she’s beautiful, even though she is a Hispanic woman. She’s still gorgeous. She can strive to do whatever she wants,” she says.
Hispanic heritage can be a blessing and a curse, especially for young girls, who are highly susceptible to what they see in the media. Hispanic women in particular are very often overlooked and miss out on recognition that is long overdue.
“I believe that women’s recognition is a slow progression,” Jissell Cano, a senior varsity athlete, says. “Most big industries are run by men because women are looked down upon because of hormones or simply just their human anatomy.”
Calderon points to the Gabby Petito case as an example of how the media focuses more on the struggles of white women than of Hispanic Women.
“The media exploded about her,” Calderon says, “but what about ICE ? What about them? What’s going on with us?”
This lack of recognition creates a limited number of women young girls can look up to, including family members and teachers. For example, when students were asked who they looked up to, “Señora Yandun” was a very common answer. Sra.Jessica Yandun is a Spanish teacher at OHS and her motivating words have many students looking up to her.
“She always engraved in her student’s brains that our background doesn’t mean anything to our future and to be a boss woman,” Cano says.
“My journey in life is to help students that went through things that I did,’’ Sra.Yandun says.
We need more exposure on this. We need more people telling us, “Échale Ganas, whatever you do, if you’re gonna do something, try to always do your best at it,” like Ms.Yandun told me and many other students at OHS.
When the group of students and staff were asked if they had any message they wished they could share with other young Hispanic females, the answers were very heartwarming.
“Don’t hate the color of your skin…you’re beautiful,” Mata says.
Similarly, Cano also shared a very meaningful message based on what she has learned from growing up Hispanic.
“Si se puede! Just keep moving forward, never let anything discourage you,” Cano says.
Lastly, Calderon has an extra special message aimed for her sister as well as other young Hispanas.
“I just want them to be proud of where they came from, embrace their culture and wear it with pride; I didn’t for a while,”
Being part of the Hispanic community is such a privilege, and there is so much you can learn from within the culture and the people in it. As a Hispana myself, I feel like we don’t show enough appreciation towards our own culture, which is why Hispanic Heritage Month is so important in the first place. How can we expect our heritage to get more recognition if we often overlook it ourselves? In order to fully appreciate and embrace our culture we have to find pride in it and show it off to the rest of the world. That’s why, at the end of the meaningful conversations, I asked the group of girls what it was about being Hispanic that made them proud of where they came from.
“There’s such a rich culture…there’s so much in it, there’s just beautiful colors…there is so much to learn,” Cano says, and she’s right! You can see the colorfulness in almost every aspect of culture. Just take one step into a Hispanic household and you’ll be able to see it in the food, in the clothes, and even in the people’s bright personalities.
The Hispanic community, as a whole, is filled with wonderful people that will always be there for you and treat you as family. So why wouldn’t you be proud of your heritage that provided you with such a welcoming group of people?
Mata further explained this by stating that, “It’s something that’s special about us, that our hearts move past that and we still learn to live and love those people that can sometimes hurt us the most.”
So with what’s left of this Hispanic Heritage Month, it doesn’t matter if you are Hispanic or not; take a moment to appreciate that fascinating culture that we are surrounded by, and be proud of your “colorful” heritage, and make sure to never forget where you came from.