By Choudhury Rahman
September 15th to October 15th marks the annual Hispanic Heritage month, a celebration of the history, culture, and lasting achievements Hispanic Americans have made over the years. According to the month’s official website, Lyndon B. Johnson instituted the practice during his tenure in the 1960s. It became a law in 1988 and ever since, schools and organizations throughout the nation have recognized the month by various means.
Celebrations are largely cultural. An event at Centenary College, according to the Shreveport Times, is called the Festival of Lights. Both students and the public are welcome to the free event located at the College’s Quad Area. Guests can eat Hispanic food, listen to music, or take salsa dancing lessons.
Motlow College will showcase an entire musical performance on October 1st, complete with a full musical ensemble. The performance is called Tres Vidas and follows the lives of three prominent Hispanic figures: painter Frida Kahlo, peasant activist Rufina Amaya, and poet Alfonsina Stori.
Alexis Moreno ’16 says cultural events like these offer a valuable lens into the lives of the Hispanic people. He says, “Learning about culture gives us more perspective and context about others.”
Commemorations have reached the national level. The National Football League has also recognized the month. CBS News writes that the NFL has created special events at each team’s home stadium that draw thousands of fans. They are dedicated to fostering community outreach and recognizing the importance of Latinos in American history.
High schools in the country have taken the time out of their curriculum to offer an educational side to Hispanic Heritage. According to journal-news, Ross High School celebrated by learning about Hispanic people, culture, traditions, and customs. Spanish teacher Angela Gardner says this helps students develop a more “globalized perspective.”
Mr. Torres, a Spanish teacher at Tech, agrees. “We aren’t the only culture in the world. The more we know about others, the more we will be able to communicate with them. By learning about other cultures, we learn more about ourselves.”
Stanley Zhu ’16 believes that the recognition of the month is also a great complement to learning the Spanish language. He says, “It is necessary to have a gauge on the cultural sensitivities surrounding Spanish. Spanish classes should focus on the origin of Spanish for students to develop full comprehension.”
At Brooklyn Technical High School, LOTE (Languages other than English) teachers are known to often gloss over the cultural aspects of the language, focusing instead on the grammar and syntax. Hispanic Heritage is rarely recognized.
Ms. Sha, a Chinese language teacher, argues that this shouldn’t be the case. She says, “Culture should be taught because it gives you motivation to learn a language.”
But Brooklyn Tech teachers have yet to adopt a complete event honoring Hispanic Heritage Month.
Many students say teachers should be creative with the curriculum so as not to miss time discussing culture and history. Steven Vavasis ’18 says, “Each teacher has their own specific style of teaching. Teachers shouldn’t be restricted by the curriculum. ”
Until then, students will have to make their own effort to research the Spanish language, history, and customs.
Alexis says this is not a problem but an opportunity. “Ultimately, it is the student’s prerogative that matters.”