Am I the only Hispanic around who gets truly pissed off every time someone mentions Hispanic Heritage Month?
This ridiculous and artificial construct, which afflicts us every year between September 15 and October 15, began with Lyndon Johnson, who established Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 after listening to Congressman Edward R. Roybal, who was seeking reelection in a district where many Mexicans lived. It spread like a chile-powered fart and was expanded by Ronald Reagan into a month-long “celebration” shortly before he left office in 1988.
The starting date was selected because five Latin American countries declared independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. Can you name them? No… and neither can most marketers who rhapsodize about the importance of recognizing the achievements of the Latino community. For the record, they were Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Everyone assumes Mexico also celebrates its independence on that date (or on Cinco de Mayo, between bottles of Corona); they’re off by a day, since Mexican Independence Day is on the 16th. Chile and Belize celebrate on the 18th and 21st, but no one knows anyone from Chile, and no one knows where Belize is, so by then, most Americans start to lose interest and begin to long for Oktoberfest.
As a Cuban (whose own national holiday, El Grito de Yara on October 10, falls towards the end of the month), I find this “month long celebration” to be as absurd as the idea of an “Anglo-American Amalgamation Celebration” during the month of July, merging the celebration of Canada Day on July 1 and U.S. Independence Day on July 4.
Stop trying to entice me with red white and green graphics, people… I am not Mexican. Stop showing me pictures of Che Guevara. I am certainly not a Communist. Stop waving Frida Kahlo and her God-forsaken unibrow in my face… although I love that woman and I love her art, I would really like to celebrate the accomplishments of Latin people who aren’t as deliberately freaky. Can’t we inundate the public instead with pictures of the lovely Maria Felix, or classy Libertad Lamarque, or the great Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos? No, because these people are UNFAMILIAR. Marketers don’t want to educate the public about Hispanics; they just want to sell them stuff.
These three people are also highbrow, and that seems to go against everything that is celebrated during Hispanic Heritage Month. During this season, Americans will be quoted the incendiary words of Cesar Chavez, but not the dramatic language of José Martí or Federico Garcia Lorca. TV will play the music of Pitbull, but not that of Carlos Gardel or Ernesto Lecuona. The public will be inundated with images of slutty women in tight clothes and swarthy men with the top of their pants around their knees; no one will be reminded that Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta are Hispanics as well.
Why? Because the people of the United States in general, and its marketing community in particular, are completely unprepared to deal with the real diversity that exists within the Hispanic community in this country. Surprise. We’re not all housemaids. We don’t all watch novelas. We’re not particularly pleased when you greet us with a lame and mispronounced “¡Hola, Amigo!” — especially since some of us have managed to master your language even better than you have.
We don’t need you to set aside a month to tell us we really matter. We’re aware of that all through the year. What you’ve done is to set aside a month to tell us how little you know about us, how little you want to learn about us, and how desperately anxious you are to get a piece of our disposable income… especially now, when it exceeds $1.5 trillion dollars.
No nos jodan.