Wrapping Up Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month

This week marks the conclusion of one of our various Heritage Months that are celebrated throughout the year: Hispanic Heritage Month. The U.S. government has recognized National Hispanic Heritage Month as the days between September 15 and October 15.  This celebration started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week, but it wasn’t until 1988 that was expanded to span 30 days. This designated period commemorates the anniversary of independence from Spain of various Latin American countries, such as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile. Even though the words “Hispanic” and “Latino” are used interchangeably, they have different meanings and express different identities. The term “Hispanic” was coined by the U.S. Census Bureau to refer Spanish-speaking people in the United States of any race or people with ancestors from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. The usage of this term sometimes may be controversial because it makes allusion solely to our heritage from Spain, while neglecting other ethnic groups and races that are strongly present in our cultural/ethnic identities. Latino would be the comprehensive term that includes Latinos and Latinas of Hispanic, indigenous, African, mestizo and/or mulatto descent. This will give you an idea of our racial and cultural heterogeneity, and how these characteristics will be reflected in library resources about or by Latinos.
Hispanic Heritage Month Hispanic (Latino) Heritage Month Display

Although “Hispanic Heritage Month” serves as an opportunity to pay tribute to the contribution of Latinos and Latinas to the United States, it is important to remember that Latino History is American history. African Americans and American Indians, as well as Latinos, have all helped United States to grow and thrive, yet still struggle to be recognized for their vital contributions made throughout this country’s history. This is why establishing “Heritage Months” in our calendars is still relevant and important.

As we celebrate Latino Heritage Month, and that community continues to be the nation’s largest minority group, let’s use this opportunity to recognize their contribution to our shared culture. In addition to their involvement and participation in politics, entertainment, arts, sports, let’s also remember their work toward a better education and broader health rights, their struggles for justice and inclusion and their advocacy toward a better life for all members of society. Somerville Public Library has a series of resources available (in English, Spanish and Bilingual) that highlight the rich Latino contribution to United States. A Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month display with a sample of some of these resources is located on the main floor (Wellington Hall) of the Central Branch. Here is a glimpse of some books, DVDs and CDs that are available: Marble Season [Graphic Novel] The semi-autobiographical graphic novel by Gilbert Hernández about a comics-obsessed Mexican-American boy. A nice portrayal of suburban life in 1960s California filled with pop-culture references and neighborhood and cultural clashes, all from the perspective of children. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao [Fiction] The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Junot Díaz about an overweight nerdy Dominican teenage boy who struggles with love, his family past and his identity while growing up in New Jersey. We Took the Streets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords [Non-Fiction] A memoir by Miguel Melendez and his days in the Young Lords, organization that arose during the 1960s focusing on Puerto Rican empowerment in United States. The group demanded social and political justice for Latino community in New York and organized a series of clothing drives, daycare centers and free health programs for the community. Real Women Have Curves [DVD] A coming-of-age story set in East Los Angeles of a first-generation Chicana who struggles to balance between her decision to go to college or to work and provide for her family. Jazzin’ by Tito Puente, La India, with special guest the Count Basie Orchestra [Sound Recording] One of Tito Puente’s last recordings and La India’s first and only foray into Latin Jazz with a traditional big band. Puente showcases why he was one of the most important musicians in the U.S., and this generational encounter serves as a modern testament of the “Nuyorican” influence on American’s most important popular music genre: jazz. Embrace the Chaos by Ozomatli [Sound Recording] The second album of this hip ensemble showcases the diversity of the Latino community in the United States. Merging cumbia, salsa, rock and hip-hop with socially conscious lyrics, Ozomatli made people dance and think. My Little Car/Mi Carrito [Children’s Picture Book] A girl is excited with her new birthday gift from her grandpa: a little car. A story reflecting life in a barrio and why children need to take care of their things. ¡Sí, Se Puede!/Yes, We Can! Janitor Strike in L.A. [Children’s Picture Book-Spanish] A bilingual story of a boy that learns about his mother involvement with her workplace union, the value of supporting worker’s rights and people working together.

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