Opinion: What Does Hispanic Heritage Month Mean to Me? Not Much

The yearly celebration known as Hispanic Heritage Month is well under way and I guess I should be embarrassed to say that I don’t really care too much for it. But I am not.

I mean, for all intents and purposes, I am Hispanic – or at least that’s what I’ve been told since I arrived in the land of opportunity 24 years ago. So why wouldn’t I be proud to celebrate my heritage, right?

For starters, I take issue with the word Hispanic. I really don’t even know what it means. And I know I’m not the only “Hispanic” who feels that way. The debate on what we should be called is alive and well and, while I feel a bit more comfortable with the term Latina, the truth is it doesn’t really encompass all of me.

Secondly, because I don’t identify with the term Hispanic, I’m not really sure about the whole heritage thing, either. I feel absolutely no connection to some of the things celebrated during this month.

To me, my heritage is very clear: I am Peruvian. I was born in the land of the Incas, ceviche and an ice-cold Pacific Ocean. I know a lot about other Latin American countries, particularly Mexico, because I love traveling and I love history. But their heritage is not my heritage.

I guess my biggest problem with Hispanic Heritage Month is the idea that we can all be lumped into one neat little category (Hispanic) and be given one month (from Sept. 15 – Oct. 15) to celebrate our supposed heritage.

As a result, Hispanic Heritage Month is not celebrated in my household. I celebrate my heritage every single day in big and small ways: when I cook Peruvian food for my children, when I tell them the legend of Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo (the founders of the Inca empire), when I sing them the Peruvian versions of many well-known nursery rhymes and when I take them back to my homeland so they can see, taste, hear, smell and feel (part of) their heritage in real time.

Roxana A. Soto is an Emmy-winning Peruvian-born, Denver-based bilingual journalist and the co-founder of SpanglishBaby.com.

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