Written by: Samuel Mora Zepeda
I am an immigrant in the United States., and I have definitely struggled to celebrate my identity while being here. Yet, I cannot deny how lucky I am to be in this country, and I would choose to come to this country again if given the chance. However, while I believe that people should be grateful about the blessings God has given them, I also think it is important to discuss the hardships that immigrants face. If we do not, we will never address the problems faced in America, and the country will never grow.
First, I’d like to address the positive practices I have noticed on this campus and in the country. Southern tries to celebrate diversity. And, even though some people might cringe at how they do it, I believe it is a great start. Making an attempt is better than no attempt at all. Because I grew up in Costa Rica, I have noticed that diversity issues are nowhere near as important in other places as they are in the U.S. simply because other countries do not acknowledge the problem as much as Americans do.
When I came to America, it was the first time I heard of Latin American Heritage month. Americans are doing well in the sense that they are aware of the importance of these issues and try to address them; these problems are in the public’s conscience. However, while Southern — and to a greater extent America — is doing well when it comes to celebrating Latin American Heritage, some issues should still be addressed.
One problem I have seen in the U.S. is this weird obsession that Americans have with Latino culture. While it is flattering at times that many people’s favorite food is Mexican or their favorite type of music is reggaeton, Latin American culture is much more than those surface-level characteristics.
Being from a different country, none of these features that I’ve mentioned are native to me. At times, this Latinophilia causes Americans to look at Latinos as caricatures of stereotypes rather than individuals (regardless if the stereotype is positive). Research done by the Pew Research Center on Hispanics and their views of identity showed that most Hispanics do not see a shared common culture among U.S. Hispanics with varying ethnicities. Culture is so much more than food and music, and every country has its own unique values, traditions and differences.
So, am I saying that Americans cannot enjoy Spanish food or music any longer? Of course not! That would be absurd and create more divisions in our country. What I am saying, though, is that we should all educate ourselves regarding issues on ethnicity and identity.
Americans should know of the many countries in Latin America and that those individual countries are not necessarily the same. People should never assume a person’s likes and dislikes, their personality traits, and their trustworthiness just because they look or sound Hispanic. Instead, view those around you as individuals, each with unique goals and dreams. I hope everyone enjoys celebrating Latin American Heritage month and moves toward a more understanding society, one where we do not need to write articles like this one.