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Latinos Are More Than Tacos, Sports and Music. We Are Also America.

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Better Conversation David Upegui Hispanic Heritage Month History Latino Voices

Latinos Are More Than Tacos, Sports and Music. We Are Also America.

Latinos Are More Than Tacos, Sports and Music. We Are Also America.

“Humanity is strengthened by a broad portfolio of genes that can generate new talents, additional resistance to diseases, and perhaps even new ways of seeing reality. For scientific as well as for moral reasons, we should learn to promote human biological diversity for its own sake instead of using it to justify prejudice and conflict.”

When E.O. Wilson wrote this passage as an entomologist, academic and most importantly as a member of the human race, I can’t imagine he would have predicted the current racial and cultural tensions in our country. Instead of celebrating and valuing diversity we find ourselves taking sides and blaming each other for injustices.

When I was younger, October seemed to be the beginning of the end of the fruitful growing season. With its shorter days and colder winds, October was a time for reduction, demise and decay. It wasn’t until someone pointed out that October is harvest season, when we celebrate the bounty of the earth, that I began to appreciate the power of the cycles and in particular the beauty of October.

As the calendar marks the annual celebration of Latinos and our contributions to the larger society, in the form of Hispanic Heritage month, I can’t help but think about how invidious that sounds. Our contributions stem from our belonging and participating in our communities—it does not begin or end with October. However, I am thankful for this month as it provides opportunities for dialogue and renewal. It may be coincidental, but now October is a time to celebrate the bounty of our land as well as our communities.

As a country we find it meaningful to celebrate the “discovery of America” by a brave sailor—even when the truth is far darker (by all historical accounts Columbus was a genocidal psychopath). We should find it easy to tell the untold stories of the men and women of Latino heritage that have weaved the American fabric.

As educators we are responsible for shaping the minds of the future stewards of the earth—not a trivial task. Therefore, we should empower all of our students, since the ones that do not become problem-solvers, will undoubtedly become problems. It is the right time to celebrate all of our children and to engage them with stories that make them see themselves as the future of our world (which they truly are).

We need to educate ourselves, learn about the Mayas and their use of the concept of zero, the Incas contributions to astronomy, the Aztec’s mandatory education system (which we mirror today). Tell every student about Sotomayor, César Chávez, Sylvia Mendez, Sandra Cisneros, Roberto Clemente, our stories as human guinea pigs (birth control pills in Puerto Rico), our heroics as military members, our efforts to reconstruct the USA after major disasters.

In other words, have students learn about the normality that is being Latino in the USA. It was my 10th-grade teacher, Mr. Householder, who taught me that Latinos are more than tacos, sports and music—we are also America.

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