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Hispanic Heritage Month 2023, Joe Barrera

Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept.15-Oct. 15, is upon us. Hispanic, Latino, Chicano, Mexican Heritage month is one of many ethnic months. Some people object to Hispanic Heritage Month because they fear Mexicans and other Latinos. That's what happens when there is a constant propaganda barrage about the "crisis at the border," when border guards push mothers and babies back into the water, balloon obstacles float in the water and chains and razor wire lace el Rio Grande, the Big River. Anything to keep out those Mexicans and other impoverished Latinos who just want jobs picking crops, working in slaughter houses, and taking care of our little kids. We see all of these cruel scenes on TV, day in day out. That shapes attitudes. Constant fear-mongering. Hispanic Heritage Month is about Mexican Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, Cuban Americans, and others who have succeeded in the United States, That's the easy part of the celebration. The hard part is dealing with the racism and irrational fears. The hope of Hispanic Heritage Month is that we can lessen racism and fear. We celebrate other months for the same reason. Some of the celebrations are prominent. We celebrate Black Heritage Month in February, American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month in November, and of course, Columbus Day. We can't forget the Irish. We celebrate the famous Catholic bishop, St. Patrick and Irish American Heritage Month in March. A note about the Irish. It used to be that WASPS, white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, were terrified of the Catholic Irish, probably because as good Catholics the Irish had so many kids and the WASPS were afraid they would quickly be outnumbered and "lose their country." Besides, everybody knew that the Irish were drunk all the time. That was the prejudice against the Irish. Throughout the year there are numerous other groups recognized. Many differences, many cultures and contributions, and when all is said and done, all mixed in to make one big American heritage. We celebrate the totality of American Heritage on the 4th of July, on Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veterans' Day, and a bit more specifically to religion, Rosh Hashanah, Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is nothing to fear about all the heritage celebrations. Yes, they are about diversity, equity and inclusion, those horrible buzz words that have become the equivalent in the minds of many to the evil epithets, "Nazi" and "Communist." And the other word, "woke." I have never understood what "woke" means or why some people turn pale with fear when they hear it. There is nothing "woke" about all of this. You can be drowsy and still have a lot of fun celebrating with the Latinos, for instance. Most of the heritage celebrations were established many years before our current climate of hostility to ethnic, racial and cultural distinctions came into vogue. The intent of the celebrations was never to drive wedges between us. The present fear is only because of ignorance. Fortunately, the attempt to stamp out diversity is only a passing phase. Yes, we periodically pass through a storm like the one we're in now, like an old sailing ship tossed and buffeted by contrary winds. Soon, our ship of state will serenely sail into fair havens and we'll return to our multicultural roots. Truth be told, we never left them. It just seems like we did, but that's only an illusion. It's only an illusion because every known ethnicity, race and culture in the world is found here. There is no nation, clan, tribe, religion, persecuted minority or political movement who is not represented here. Our genius is that we celebrate our unique strains but we come together as one American family. Ironically, we come together not because we're all the same but precisely because we're different. In this country we find the heart to love our diversity. We're committed to truth and justice, in a word, to equity. We want to bring everybody into the large tent. It's all about inclusion. It's true: E Pluribus Unum. We're one, but we don't erase our beautiful variety. There is no other country on earth who wants to do this or who can do this. We're not perfect yet. There is still a lot of room for improvement. But we're getting there. I have hope. Joe Barrera, Ph.D., is the former director of the Ethnic Studies Program at UCCS. He teaches Mexico/U.S. Border Studies and U.S. Military History. He is a combat veteran of the Vietnam War. Email:

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