From Sept.15 to Oct.15, Hispanic and Latino Americans celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month in which we highlight our culture, contributions and traditions from the past and present.
Despite being in a foreign land, far away from our roots, we should feel proud of the home far from home we have made in our local communities, sharing and spreading our history for others to learn and appreciate.
According to the Pew Research Center, the Hispanic population in the United States reached 63.6 million in 2022, a 26 percent increase from 50.5 million in 2010.
Despite our growing numbers, it is hard to deny that the culture most of us share comes with its differences. From ethnicity, nationality, race and skin color, these factors get in the way of our community as a whole being united for issues that matter.
For one, there is a distinction between nationalities and what country you are from. All different types of countries, from South America and Central America to the Caribbean, are given a label and stereotypes.
Based on the way a person might talk, behave or what their customs are, they will be judged if their actions do not align with what others expect of them. If they do meet the criteria of said stereotypes, they are made fun of.
This problem even extends to relations between people of the same country, a source of conflict often being what region or city you are from.
Another pressing matter within the Hispanic and Latino communities is the stark difference in the treatment of people with a lighter skin color versus those with a darker skin color.
Colorism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “prejudice or discrimination especially within a racial or ethnic group favoring people with lighter skin over those with darker skin.”
This is a phenomenon that affects people from different countries, all around the globe, because a lighter skin color tends to be favored and seen as the beauty standard compared to people of darker skin tones.
Eddie Fergus, an assistant professor of education at New York University, conducted a study on Latino high school boys. Fergus found that Mexican and Puerto Rican boys with light skin were perceived as white and treated more favorably, while boys of the same ethnicity who had darker complexions were perceived as Black and often experienced discrimination.
Furthermore, The Washington Post reported that about half of Hispanics have heard racially insensitive jokes, with most Latinos saying skin color has shaped their lives.
All these stressors and prejudice, which can sometimes come from our very own communities, can make Hispanics and Latinos discouraged about their place and opportunities in society. Racial discrimination can cause serious mental health symptoms such as higher psychological distress, suicidal ideation, anxiety, and depression.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is a wonderful time to accept our differences and see each other’s identities for what they are, just as valid as anyone else’s no matter your nationality, ethnicity, skin color or race.
However, we must not forget to become aware of problems within our communities. By being open and learning the different societal factors that affect each one of us, we will be able to gain compassion for others and come together as a team.
The National Hispanic Heritage Month website has sources and events planned to educate and celebrate the Hispanic and Latino communities.