(Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Opinion: Why I can live without Hispanic Heritage Month

Before I share the reasons as to why I detest Hispanic Heritage Month, I pause to offer a history lesson.

Did you know that this whole Hispanic Heritage Month thing started as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, and it only became Hispanic Heritage Month on August 17, 1988, when a public law of the United States was enacted? Need proof? Here’s the public law.

And here’s the government page that describes the history of what is turning into one of the most annoying four weeks of the year.

If Hispanic Heritage Month actually achieved what it was created to do , that is, to celebrate “the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America,” then I would be cool with it. Instead, the hope of real and authentic celebration has turned into oversaturation.

Spare me.

Just like almost everything else in the United States, Hispanic Heritage Month has gone mainstream. And most of it has been awful.

The result is pure Hispanignorance.

Some of the most bizarre examples of the last few years:

And so on and on.

This is all about focus, or lack of it. What Hispanic Heritage Month tries to achieve every year never really gets accomplished. There is a lack of realness and authenticity. For example, many stories talk during the month about how awesome Latino celebrities are or about the problems U.S. Latinos have. But many of the stories could have been written at any other moment of the year. Why now?

Mainstream outlets very likely have the greatest of intentions during Hispanic Heritage Month, but in the end they lack a true understanding of the month’s potential because when it comes to decision-making and story approvals, U.S. Latinos are not at the table. Newsrooms lack diversity and so do companies. One blog, the fabulous Latina Lista, wrote this in 2009:

Yet, while it’s great to celebrate the heritage, given that the spotlight is squarely focused on the Latino community, it was also a perfect opportunity to shed light on something that needs to be talked about and addressed and is hardly ever give the proper attention — the lack of Latino diversity — in management at companies, among academicians at universities, court justices in the judicial system, the U.S. Senate…and the list goes on.

That is the core issue here, and it is why I roll my eyes every time I get a pitch from people who want me to promote the month. This past month, one e-mail from a major literacy agency sent me an infographic to consider running promoting the new voices of Latino literature. Great idea, only problem was that the main promotional graphic was using a piñata.

No gracias.

So while others try to fulfill the checkoff item (“ok, people, we covered some Latino stories for the past few weeks, all good”), the real challenge is to keep sharing the real stories of the U.S. Latino community, especially when they even might make others feel uncomfortable. Two of those stories actually happened this past week. They were both sports-related and they had nothing to do with Hispanic Heritage Month.

The first one was Boston Red Sox legend Pedro Martínez working as an analyst for TBS’ baseball playoff coverage. He was insightful, entertaining, and he even spoke in Spanish. The world didn’t end, and TBS recognized that Martínez’s addition to the team proved that Major League Baseball must continue to admit that without a strong Latino contingent supporting the sport, pro baseball would just be dying in this country.

The second example was last Friday night’s ESPN broadcast of the Mexico-Panama World Cup qualifying match. Sure the game was exciting (did you see the game-winning goal?), but what struck me were the postgame interviews. They were bilingual. The on-air personality asked questions in English, got answers in Spanish, translated those answers in English for viewers, asked questions in Spanish, got answers in English, etc. It was beautiful. It was natural, and I still couldn’t believe that ESPN was doing this, although I was thrilled that it did. And yes, the world didn’t end then either.

True diversity will happen when risks are taken. To the risk-takers, the rewards will be plentiful. And for those who will never try to delve deeper into Hispanic Heritage Month, I tuned you out a long time ago.

Opinion: Why I can live without Hispanic Heritage Month  julio nbc final 1 news NBC Latino News

Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77 ) founded LatinoRebels.com in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. In the past 12 months, Julito represented the Rebeldes on Face the NationNPRUnivisionForbes, and The New York Times.


  1. Reblogged this on Franky Benítez and commented:

    My latest for NBC Latino.

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