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Upper School celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

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In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson made a momentous decision when he decided to create National Hispanic Heritage Week. This week grew into a month-long celebration under President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Lasting from September 15 to October 15, this month is dedicated to Hispanic people, their culture, and their impact on American society. The term “Hispanic” refers to people of Latin American or Spanish descent who speak Spanish as well as English. The month includes the independence days of many significant Latin American countries, such as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (September 15), Mexico (September 16), and Chile (September 18). Westminster students reflected and shared their insight into the meaning and significance of this important month.

“Hispanic Heritage Month is a month focused on Hispanic heritage and what it means to our country,” said sophomore Fer Juarez. “I feel like the fact that Hispanics make up a large part of [America’s] population makes it important to not forget where they came from, what their culture is, and what they do.”

Junior Isabella Velarde also had an opinion on why Hispanic Heritage Month is significant.

“Other people in different countries live in different ways,” said Velarde. “The foods they eat, the music they listen to, and even their holidays, which are all different. I think it is important to make that aware. [Hispanic Heritage Month] is a time where I can show that I am different and embrace that I am different.”

Westminster has celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month for the entirety of the month throughout all levels of the school. Spanish teacher Daniel Searl explained what Westminster has done this year to recognize the month.

“We kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month with a fantastic event in the Lower School, with a mariachi and a ballet from the University of Texas,” said Searl. “The middle of the month was the recognition in the Upper School, where our Café con Leche Hispanic affinity group put together a combination of educational and cultural and fun. It wasn’t the traditional mariachi, but it was more of the modern music, with the Latino musicians and dancers.”

Although this may sound like a large measure of recognition for Hispanic Heritage Month, Westminster was still not finished with its celebration.

“One day before the official closing in the Middle School, our sixth, seventh, and eighth students presented about Hispanic Heritage Month and about their own heritage,” said Searl. “The Middle School assembly highlighted the country of Peru to help students recognize that there is more diversity to Hispanics than just Mexicans.

This widespread celebration at Westminster spread the appreciation of Latino and Hispanic culture throughout America. The reason for such a focus on this month at Westminster is clear in the opinion of senior Michelle Bibiano.

“Either you know a Hispanic or Latino,” said Bibiano, “or one of your friends has a friend that is Hispanic or Latino. You want to be aware of their culture and their heritage so you don’t offend them.”

In fact, National Hispanic Heritage Month is becoming increasingly important in America as the population of Hispanics increases every year. The population of Hispanic people in America has grown from about 22 million

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in 1990, soon after the month was created, to over 55 million in 2014. As the amount of Hispanic people in the U.S. has grown, so has the significance of their culture and history. However, this commemorative month is not just celebrated on a national scale; it is very much relevant to the lives of Westminster students as well.

“I think it’s important to educate Westminster students about Hispanic heritage so that they know a little bit more when they’re actually out there in the real world,” said Juarez.

Velarde had a similar take on the value of Westminster students being educated about Hispanic culture.

“There’s a bunch of different cultures throughout the community at Westminster, but [Hispanic Heritage Month] is important so that we know that there are different people that go to this school,” said Velarde. “It shows that the school is more diverse than we might think.”

Although National Hispanic Heritage Month officially ends on October 15, that does not mean that Westminster will stop recognizing Hispanic culture. October 31-November 2 is the Mexican celebration for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

The Day of the Dead is an opportunity to set up an altar and reminisce and be close to one’s deceased relatives.

“It’s not supposed to be something sad, it’s supposed to be something happy, just remembering your dead relatives,” said Juarez.

On the Friday before October 31, there will be an altar set up outside of the lunchroom to honor this holiday and the culture behind it.

As National Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close, the Westminster community must look forward to a time where Hispanics are considered just a part of America.

“I can’t wait for a time to come where we don’t need a special month for this,” said Searl. “That just accepting and recognizing these contributions is just an everyday thing.” That day seems to be coming near in the future, but until then National Hispanic Heritage Month is helping millions of Americans become more aware of this diverse and vibrant group that is so important to the country.

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Upper School celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month