Every year from September 15 to October 15, our country celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, which recognizes the histories, cultures, and contributions of Latinx, Hispanic and Latino-identified communities around the world. We invited three Latina faculty members in our Nueva community—Paloma Hernandez, Ana Cecilia Alvarez, and Karla Ortiz—to reflect on the question: What do you want to celebrate about your Latina heritage?
Paloma Hernandez, kindergarten associate teacher
To celebrate my Latinx heritage means to pay tribute to my sister and mother.
My mother was born in Teocaltiche, Jalisco in 1966. She came to the United States when she was 14 years old. On the weekends, she’d sit on my grandma’s lap on their way to the Alameda Swap Meet, where my grandmother had a stall that sold children’s dress clothes brought over from Mexico. On the weekdays, she learned English at Jefferson High School, famous for its role in the student walkouts of the late 60s and a long-time subject of headlines decrying racial tension among students. Nowadays, she hosts an online radio show and self-publishes children's books and collections of poetry. She’s a nanny, and she can’t help but fall in love with every child she cares for. Whenever she sees a woman or girl walking alone on the side of the road, she offers her a ride—and sometimes food or clothing—to wherever she needs to go.
My sister was born in Bellflower, California in 2003. She was a wildfire from the start, climbing up the side of her dresser before she fully knew how to walk, talking back to my aunts whenever they commented on her very American choices. Danie, or Dani as she has recently decided to go by, was salutatorian and prom queen, as well as editor-of-design of her high school newspaper, the vice president of the school’s service club, and a committed member of her basketball and color guard teams. More importantly, she’s a fiercely loyal friend, an irreverently funny teenager, and a deeply loving younger sister. She admonishes me for not texting her enough and sends me video clips updating me on her classes and professors, her budding friendships, and her ever-developing political consciousness as a freshman at Pomona College.
As a Latina, I am my family. I cannot help but define myself through them, their experiences, and their gifts. In a country that places great value on individual achievements, my mom, my sister, and I measure ourselves by the happiness of our dearest loved ones. That is why this Latinx Heritage Month, I want to celebrate not only their speech-worthy accomplishments, but also the everyday things that make them who they are.
Ana Cecilia Alvarez, middle school writing and humanities teacher
On a personal level, my Latinx (more specifically my Mexican) heritage is rooted in my ancestors and the actual places—the mountain-ringed valley of Mexico City, and the humid, forested hills of Veracruz—they lived in. So I’d want to celebrate those places and those people! Gratefully, Mexican culture has many practices of celebrating those who came before, and I try to return to and reconnect to those places whenever I can.
As a Californian, I also want to celebrate the heritage of political resistance led for and by Latinx people. Before moving up to the Bay, I lived in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Lincoln Heights, across from the Abraham Lincoln High School. In 1966, students from Lincoln High, alongside their teacher Sal Castro, organized a boycott to protest lack of counseling services and educational opportunities for Mexican-American students. That's just one example of many to celebrate!
Karla Ortiz, upper school math and science associate teacher
As Latinx Heritage Month is underway, I am thinking more about what I would like to celebrate and recognize about my latinidad. As a child growing up in a Latinx enclave in Las Vegas, Nevada, I was often surrounded by people that looked like me, held similar cultural values, and practiced the same traditions. I always looked forward to the winter holidays because our community (immediate and extended family/friends) would come together to celebrate and have delicious food. I especially liked participating in the tradition of posadas. However, when I left for college this was no longer my reality. There was a much smaller number of people who identified as Latinx and a smaller portion yet that looked like me.
I think the issue of lack of representation in the media and in a plethora of professions is something that plagues the Latinx community to this day. In this sense, it is also important to recognize that being Latinx is an ethnic identity which intersects with racial identities. Indigenous Latinxs and Afro-Latinxs are often the least represented in various spheres of society. Thus, as I think about what I want to celebrate during Latinx Heritage Month, I think about and celebrate the resilience of our communities and how we have come a long way and continue to resist various forms of oppression. I also celebrate our culture, foods, and traditions as a way to remember our roots.