Tess Hemmila – Staff Writer
The term ‘Hispanic’ unites many people groups and nations around the world. The importance of this word can often be lost because it is too often used incorrectly or interchangeably with ‘Latinx.’ Yet, in truth, Hispanic is simply a catch-all term for all Spanish speaking countries.
To recognize the beautiful history and influence of Hispanic countries, the United States celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. This month is dedicated to acknowledging the incredible impact that Hispanics have had on the nation and to remember the cultures that have been integrated into U.S. culture.
The United States has a wide range of nationalities and ethnicities mixed into its population, including a very large Hispanic community. According to Pew Research Center, Hispanics make up nearly 20% of the U.S. population and are the largest minority group in the country, as of 2016.
Because of our shared border, the largest Hispanic nationality in the U.S. is Mexican. Mexican culture has been a part of American culture for hundreds of years, especially in the Southwestern states. In some regions of the U.S., aspects of Mexican culture, such as Mexican food, Mexican music, and even the celebration of quiceañeras, are a part of daily life. Despite this blending of cultures, many people do not fully appreciate the beauty and significance of Mexican culture.
Recently, the film industry has used movies like Disney Pixar’s Coco to bring attention to Mexico’s rich history, customs, and culture. While these movies are helping to bring Mexican culture into the mainstream, it is important to realize that these films only show a small part of the massive sphere Mexican culture.
Beyond Mexican influences on the United States, there are many Hispanic nationalities and cultures that have left a mark on U.S. culture. Central and South American influences are increasingly prevalent in the U.S. Yet, because the United States is a country populated by immigration, sometimes cultures are blended, misunderstood, or forgotten altogether.
According to Paraguayan student Jazmine Mendieta Gauto, it is important to appreciate the individual cultures that have impacted the United States and not to forget their contributions.
“We need to celebrate this month because the cornfields in Iowa are so big that sometimes you forget that there’s something beyond them,” said Mendieta Gauto. “The richness of the culture, food, and music in Spanish speaking countries can be quite unknown on this campus; not because opportunities to experience these cultures are not out there, but because we don’t know how to explore a mind that’s different from our own.”