Jaimes: Hispanic history month should include an emphasis on Hispanic history

The celebration of Hispanic history month sparked interest in me on how to keep culture alive when leaving your home and family.


Thomas A. Stewart

Masked dancers entertain at the annual Latino Festival on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018. The event took place in front of the Iowa City Senior Center on Linn Street.

Marina Jaimes, Opinion Columnist

Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 marks the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month celebrated throughout the U.S.  In the Iowa City and Coralville area, events such as the Latino Festival took place to provide an inclusive environment to the Latino population — a celebration filled with dance, music, and food. To the 6.6 percent of Hispanic and Latino students at the UI, it is a recognition of a culture that is too often diminished in society and not always exposed to the majority of students around them.

RELATED: Video: Annual Latino Festival takes over downtown Iowa City

In my own effort to recognize the month that celebrates my heritage, I began to think of what made this month special to me. After Oct. 15, I would still speak Spanish, listen to the same music, and eat the same food — so, nothing would change. Hispanic culture would still exist without 30 days dedicated to celebration, but I would not be myself if I ever chose to deny the culture that shaped me.

I wondered what would happen if I ignored my family’s history as I had seen so many do. Would I leave home and forget the only means of communication between me and the grandmother who raised me? Would I find myself turned off by the food that nourished and sustained me for 18 years, only to return to my roots and choose Americanized foods over arroz con gandules? I soon found out that my deep love for my culture was not for the external qualities but for the fear that I would lose it.

To put my feelings into words, I spoke with Clinical Assistant Professor Jason Daniel-Ulloa of the UI College of Public Health. Ulloa, a native of California who graduated from San Diego State, described some of his beliefs about Hispanic culture.

We conversed on racism, poverty, and our families who migrated to the U.S. Most importantly, he gave insight to my concerns on college students allowing their identities to die off as they leave home, the ties that kept them closest to their heritage.

RELATED: Latino Festival welcomes all to experience the celebration of culture

Ulloa said history should become synonymous with culture The rich history of the countries that make up Latin America are distinct and often hidden under values such as respeto and familismo, but the roots of such values are rarely explained.

To answer on how students can keep their culture alive while being immersed into a new one, Ulloa said, “I think that we should immediately sign them up for the Latino minor. What is our culture if you don’t know the history of it? We fight in school systems in what to teach in there. We put in positive white history. The primary education system is the first socializer. When we try to define what Latino culture is in the U.S., we have no school system that will teach us.”

When we do not know the significance of our own ancestry, we are bound to lose it. Ulloa’s advice is one that is quite easily achievable and absolutely correct. The culmination of my family’s hard work is worth keeping alive through education. I would agree with Ulloa and also recommend for Hispanic and Latino students at the UI to learn about their roots through courses offered for the Latino studies minor.

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