The King County Council’s Equity and Social Justice Office is recognizing September 15th to October 15th as Latino/a/e Heritage Month!
Latino/a/e Heritage Month begins in the middle of the month to commemorate the September 15th anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Independence days for Mexico and Chile are also September 16th and 18th, respectively.
With more than 62 million people of Latino/a/e ancestry that live in the United States and around 220,000 here in our own King County, this is a celebration and an opportunity to recognize all the people, histories, and cultures of our Latino/a/e residents.
The Latino/a/e community come from all walks of life and continue to play a vital role within our communities. They come as our doctors, teachers, and activists to our musicians, artists, and students. They have made countless contributions to this county’s culture, advocacy, economy, and politics.
Even the names of this heritage month highlights the diversity that encompasses this community. Although originally and still coined as Hispanic Heritage Month in most spaces—this began in 1968 when President Lyndon Johnson declared it as a weeklong celebration. President Ronal Reagan would eventually extend this week to a full month of celebration.
The term had resonated with some in the community—with many continuing to identify as Hispanic. However, not everyone has been thrilled with this term, as the word “Hispanic” is the English translation of the Spanish word “Hispano,” which means a person whose cultural traditions originate from Spain. This would erase all the history, culture, and language that existed before European colonization—and would be especially upsetting for those who are not White. It would alienate indigenous and Afro-Latino communities—especially when so much of their history revolved around resisting Spanish colonialism.
Along with Hispanic, the terms Latino and Latina began to gain traction around the same time. “Latino” can be used to describe men or mixed-gender groups of people who originated from countries in Latin America. “Latina” has been used to describe individuals and groups of women from Latin America. These terms can also encompass more places—such as the Caribbean and Brazil. As with any label, many have chosen to identify as either of these terms whereas some have chosen not.
“Latinx” began to pick up in traction, especially among academic circles and younger Latinos because of its ability to be gender neutral and inclusive. However outside of these spaces, the term is not used as often. There may also be hesitancy to adopt this label as Spanish words do not typically end in “x” and it can be argued that “Latino” is already a gender-neutral term. The more recent term that has emerged is “Latine,” with the “e” ending being viewed as a more common and grammatically correct Spanish ending. This term is also gender-neutral and inclusive.
As our communities evolve and shift, our language must also reflect these changes. It is difficult to encompass such a diverse group of people into one or two labels. Some may choose one of the terms explained before, while others may choose to only identify as their ethnic group. Communities may find a home in these labels whereas some will reject all of them outright. These different expressions all bring a unique richness to our country and county. We value and honor all of the Latino/a/e community—those from the past, present, and future. No role or contribution is considered too small to celebrate. Once again, please join our ESJ Office in celebrating Latino/a/e Heritage Month! A happy month to all those that do!