Examining Latinx lives today: Hispanic Heritage Month
Hispanic Caucus members commemorated the start of Hispanic Heritage month while acknowledging the troubles of the past year.
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More than any other year, 2020 has demonstrated the need to celebrate Hispanic Heritage every day of the year, not just for 30 days.
As Latinx leaders across the nation acknowledged the start of the celebration, each announcement came with a dark undertone. One of loss, struggle, and death.
“Latino Americans are essential and resilient. We are entrepreneurs, farmworkers, astronauts, teachers, doctors, activists, soldiers, members of Congress, and so much more,” the Hispanic Caucus wrote on Twitter.
The words echo those our leaders have been saying for months as an entire demographic was impacted the hardest by COVID-19. Yet, an unequal number of Latinx workers were labeled as “essential,” and the dark truths of our healthcare system were exposed.
“We celebrate our heritage of resilience by continuing to fight for a democracy that truly includes us.”
“Latino Americans are essential and resilient. We are entrepreneurs, farmworkers, astronauts, teachers, doctors, activists, soldiers, members of Congress, and so much more.”— Hispanic Caucus (@HispanicCaucus) September 15, 2020
“we celebrate our heritage of resilience by continuing to fight for a democracy that truly includes us” pic.twitter.com/nH0Bf0vliW
Dozens of top leaders focused on the word “resilience,” as a focal point in their acknowledgement of the month.
It is as if Latinx individuals are expected to endure this. We are resilient, we move on. Let us now celebrate our heritage for an entire month – we’re also a monolith – while we try to forget the traumas of the past year alone.
This year, Hispanic Heritage month begins less than 50 days before the Presidential election, and nationwide, the Latinx population is caught in a battle of tug-a-war between both presidential candidates. Never before has the Latinx vote been sought to this extent during a Presidential Election, and it comes at a time when the Latinx demographic has been the most let down on multiple fronts.
Just imagine if the top leaders in the United States had conversations and conducted outreach centering the Latinx community outside of an election cycle? But so far, the sudden pivot has had many communities feel like pawns.
Yes, COVID-19 has sickened and killed Latinx individuals on a disproportionate scale. Sadly, the statistic is no longer sobering. Neither is the fact that, years after the devastation of Puerto Rico by two Hurricanes, and even in 2020 with the onslaught of earthquakes, the island has yet to receive the aid it needs.
Today marks the beginning of #HispanicHeritageMonth. As we honor Latino & Hispanic Americans & their contributions to our nation, we pause to recognize the unequal burden the #coronavirus pandemic has had on communities of color & mourn lives lost due to racial health inequity.— Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis (@COVIDOversight) September 15, 2020
The 2020 Census has also been cut short by the Trump Administration, and among those most in peril of an undercount are Latinx communities. While Latinx response is already low, the decision to end the Census early could diminish voting power and funds from Latinx and BIPOC communities as a whole.
This, as Latinx people have become one of the fastest-growing demographics in the country, exacerbating the risk of a severe undercount, even as we are changing the landscape of the electorate, and the faces of the top leadership positions in the country.
“As we grow in population and political power, it’s important to remember where we’ve come from, endured and accomplished,” The Hispanic Caucus wrote in a subsequent tweet.
This year, Latinx voters are expected to be the largest non-white demographic eligible to show-up to the polls, during perhaps the most important election cycle of our lifetimes.
The question, however, is whether both candidates are doing enough to appeal to voters – not merely on an “I see you” level. Rather, do the candidates truly understand the needs of Latinx voters, and understand us, not as an amalgamation of the word “Latinx,” but as a deeply nuanced demographic?
The answer will be determined in the days following Election Day, as a record number of ballots will be sent via mail.
What’s more, is the fate of DREAMERs under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Sure, the Supreme Court voted in its favor on June 18, but since then the Trump Administration has reignited its attack on DREAMERs, by submitting more paperwork to end the program.
And multiple unprecedented bids for office, by Latinx candidates are on the line, not just the fate of the Biden-Harris campaign. This year offers a selection of barrier-breaking Latinx candidates who could change the landscape of Congress in 2021.
Among others, these history-making candidates include Candace Valenzuela, who could be the first Black Latina Elected to Congress, Ritchie Torres, who has virtually secured his seat as the first openly LGBTQ Black Latino elected to Congress, Michelle de la Isla, who could the first Latina Congresswoman to represent Kansas, and Georgette Gómez, who could be the first LGBTQ Latina in Congress.
Latinx leaders are coming out in full force, and the truth is, the nation isn’t ready for what they’re capable of.
“This Hispanic Heritage Month, we want to uplift the stories of Latinos who have contributed to our common American heritage. Too often is our part in the American story forgotten — but we’ve always been here, helping our families and contributing to our country,” wrote the Hispanic Caucus.
Every day during Hispanic Heritage Month, the Caucus will be highlighting often overlooked Hispanic and Latinx Americans, honoring several contributions to the Hispanic and Latinx community.
“We honor the heritage they are part of, while knowing that our best days are yet to come,” the Caucus continued.
And while the rest of the nation may not know it, you do not need to be exceptional in order to be validated in the U.S. You don’t have to be the valedictorian of your school, a congressperson, or a doctor. Just by living and working in this America that was designed to work against us, we are working against expectations.