By State Representative, Leon D. Young
This week, I have the distinct privilege, as well as pleasure, of wishing ALL my fellow Latino brothers and sisters happy National Latino Heritage Month!
Each year, countless Americans observe National Latino Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the rich histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon B. Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting September 15 and ending October 15.
The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Dia de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.
The HBO network is to be commended for its documentary, The Latino List, now airing, that presents a unique and vibrant glimpse into the culture of Hispanic America through a series of highly personal video portraits of Latinos who have richly contributed to the fabric of contemporary society. The 16 notable subjects share stories of growing up Latino in America, and how their background shaped their philosophies and their feelings on a society where new opportunities abound, but challenges still exist.
In viewing this documentary, I was particularly struck by the insightful reflections of José Moreno Hernández, an engineer of Mexican descent and a former NASA astronaut – who has ventured into space. He tells the story of him and his two siblings working 12-hour days tending crops with their father as children, during the summer recess from school. And, everyday after a long grueling day in the hot sun, his father would invariably turn to his children and declare: “this is the life that you can expect, if you don’t get an education.” Needless to say, that experience had a profound influence on Mr. Hernández applying himself academically, and instilled in him a real appreciation for sacrifice and hard work. Life lessons that have served him well.
In closing, I would like to acknowledge the myriad of contributions and creative influences that Latino Americans have brought about in forging the betterment of this nation.