Hispanic Heritage Month

Wednesday afternoon, I had the pleasure of providing the welcome at the Hispanic Heritage Month “kickoff” luncheon during which time, Mesa artist Zarco Guerrero presented a dynamic, engaging performance art depicting the indigenous experience, historically in the Americas. My deep appreciation to Dr. Versha Anderson and the DEIE team for planning and delivering all of the sessions for Hispanic Heritage Month.  Please check out the events planned for the month. 

Engaging in this month’s activities is not only about your own further development as a person, but I am confident that leadership insights gained will be of great value as we move our student success agenda forward – especially with our Hispanic students. 

Heritage Months allow for you to set aside time for reflection, critical thinking, celebration, new learning, stretching your boundaries of understanding and appreciation. The power of Heritage Months is captured in the descriptors that bring this experience alive: inherited special possessions, legacy, history, joy, celebrations, disharmony, conflict and disunity. We can learn from all of these states.

For me, I connect the celebration of heritage on three platforms.

First, song lyrics and literature provide a scaffold for embracing Heritage. Carlos Santana, the famed guitarist born in Tijuana and raised in San Francisco once wrote “One day there will be no borders, no boundaries, no flags and no countries and the only passport will be the heart.” Throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, I  challenge you to use the Santana quote as a metaphorical framework – for your journey to deeper understanding and appreciation for the extremely diverse Hispanic culture, history and current events.

Second, place can provide a scaffold for the celebration of Heritage. As an example, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo signed after the defeat of the Mexican Army by the United States in September 1847 provides insight to our understanding of the Hispanic culture. After a “settlement” of relatively modest financial claims, the treaty “gave” the United States ownership of California, and a significant portion of land that now includes half of New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Colorado. Residents of Mexico in this annexed place could relocate to Mexico’s new boundaries or be granted American citizenship with full civil rights. Much of what became of the United States southwest in terms of land and more importantly, the people who occupied this land, were in a sense annexed – so Arizona’s connection to the Hispanic culture in America is literally a “grounded” relationship.

Thirdly, people provide the narratives for the celebration of Heritage. Latino students make up nearly half of the K-12 student population in Arizona at 46%, and represent 86% in Maricopa, Pima and Yuma counties. These are the generations of our incoming students and it is imperative that we understand the culture, values and aspirations in order to ensure student success.

While our proximity and shared border to Mexico provides – perhaps the most dominant influence in Arizona – I encourage you to explore the vast diversity within the Hispanic culture – Hondurans, Guatemalans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Columbians, etc. – and the diversity within the multi-generations within each of these cultures. You’ll find this a remarkable cultural journey

I would be remiss if I did not recommend several books that have influenced my understanding of Mexican-American culture – Rain of Gold and 13 Senses by Victor Villasenor, Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya and Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros. Additionally, you find the works by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera amazing reads depicting life throughout Columbian history.

Enjoy the month’s events.