From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, KO celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month with faculty speakers including Modern Language Department Chair Juan Martinez, Spanish teacher Carolina Croes, Upper School Counselor Felicia Velez and student speaker senior Keysy Lopez-Diaz.
Their presentations, which happened during assemblies, touched on many different values of Hispanic heritage. Mr. Martinez discussed the history behind the month and its establishment. Mrs. Croes and Keysy talked about Hispanic culture and its different variations, such as art, dances, and styles of music. Ms. Velez highlighted local art and murals in the Hartford area.
The nationally recognized month was first a week-long celebration when it was introduced in 1968 under President Lyndon B. Johnson. It was later changed to a month under President Ronald Reagan in 1988. This month recognizes the 62 million Hispanics in the United States and their contributions.
Hispanic Heritage Month occurs when it does because it commemorates the independence days of many Central American countries. Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua all celebrate their independence days on Sept. 15, Mexico celebrates its independence on Sept. 16, Chile celebrates its independence on Sept. 18, and Belize celebrates its independence day on Sept. 21.
It is important to note what the term “Hispanic” actually means. “Hispanic is anyone from the Spanish speaking world,” Mr. Martinez said. On the other hand, Latino refers to the people from Latin America.
There are many important aspects of Hispanic culture such as greetings, prioritizing family, and music. “The culture will include certain customs that are different from typical American customs,” Mrs. Croes said. Mr. Martinez referred to it in a different form. “Hispanic culture is the way I grew up,” Mr. Martinez said.
Keysy found that being able to share her culture was informative for many students. “It means a lot to me to share my Guatemalan culture with others since there’s not much representation in the media and in the U.S.,” she said. “I feel like embracing that side of me is important.”
While many aspects of Hispanic culture are very similar, there are many differences too. “The Spanish-speaking world is one of the most diverse,” Mr. Martinez said. Mrs. Croes expanded on this. “Culture varies across different areas, such as the time you eat or the number of kisses you give when you greet someone,” she said.
Keysy enjoyed having the opportunity to showcase her culture. “I think it’s very meaningful that I get to share something that is a huge part of me and something that is not taught here at KO,” she said. “I think getting a different perspective at an assembly is important.”
Another important aspect is to understand that Hispanic Heritage Month, and the concept behind it, is something that only occurs in the U.S. The month allows the U.S. to celebrate the impact of Hispanic culture on the U.S. “It is an opportunity to bring what is beautiful in the culture to enrich society,” Mrs. Croes said.
The importance of talking about and learning about Hispanic culture is important to the KO community. “The heritage month gives visibility to a group of history that many students are connected to,” Interim Dean of Students Kata Baker said. “It is very important to understand the contributions of Hispanics and Latinos and how they shape the KO community, as well as the country.”