Breaking Down Boundaries

While I know that Hispanic Heritage Month officially ended on October 15 – perhaps “closing a calendar window” for comment or observation, I wanted to take this opportunity to suggest that tributes to cultural or ethnic heritage cannot be limited to a thirty-day pop up-like event. An origin of heritage months is likely, to some extent, traced to the absence, misrepresentation, or disparagement of a selected cultural body of knowledge, history, and ethos. Hopefully in the very near future, mainstream American history will fully embed the diverse contributions of all cultures – until then all heritage months remain important. So, as we look back on Hispanic Heritage Month 2020 (and as we begin LGBTQ History Month), please take a few moments to reflect on these insights.

The Sonoran Desert where Arizona’s geographical coordinates are drawn, has a long and rich history and influence from a broadly defined Hispanic culture – long preceding U.S. determined state and national boundaries.  Given the current immigration climate, it is important to acknowledge the presence of barriers and boundaries as literal and metaphorical objects of Hispanic Heritage Month. Carlos Santana once wrote “Un día no habrá fronteras, ni banderas, ni países, y el único pasaporte será el corazón” (One day there will be no borders, no flags, and no countries and the only passport will be the heart.) In a world dominated by nationalistic constructs and design, I fully understand that Santana’s view is romantic and best serves as a frame of reference intended to influence a humanistic lens and cultural understanding. Acknowledging that the heritage of Hispanic culture in Arizona is inexorably tied to real and perceived borders gives permission for further study in this context.

Augmenting the gift of living in Arizona that affords us daily exposure and immersion in the Hispanic culture, is the opportunity to break down our own intellectual and affective barriers and boundaries through pursuits such as reading and reflection. Prose and written narrative provide insight into past times that reveal a deeper present day understanding. Below are books that have helped sharpen my acuity of Hispanic culture.

  • Rain of Gold by Victor Villasenor
  • Thirteen Senses by Victor Villasenor
  • The Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea
  • The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  • Carmelo by Sandra Cisneros
  • Bless Me Ultima by Rodolfo Anaya

With the full acknowledgement that “heritage months” are still wonderful means to celebrate our diverse cultures, I encourage you to break down artificial calendar boundaries and find time throughout each month to learn more about the amazing diversity this country has to offer. I’ve shared nine books that have shaped my understanding and appreciation of the Hispanic culture. I encourage you to start your own reading list and being to challenge your own fronteras.