Latinos, we celebrate everyday. I recently curated an event for the San Jose State University iSchool to celebrate this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month. In this post, I am sharing some notes from that event with information from various sources that librarians can share with colleagues that perhaps are not familiar with this celebration.
The Hispanic Heritage Month began as a week in 1968 to recognize the contributions of the Hispanic community which gained momentum throughout the 1960s when the civil rights movement was at its peak and there was a growing awareness of the United States’ multicultural identities. In 1988 Congress passed a bill establishing the celebration from September 15 to October 15.
Librarians have been at the forefront of these movements too. In 1971, REFORMA The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services was established by Dr. Arnulfo Trejo and other amazing trailblazers.
As per the U.S. Census most recent data, there are 63.7 million Hispanics in the U.S., making it the nation’s largest racial or ethnic minority — 19.1% of the total population. The median age of Hispanics in 2022 was 30.7 – Hispanics are young!
There are 13 states with one million or more Hispanic residents in 2022 — Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.
To echo scholars: Latino refers to those who are from or have a background in a Latin American country. These terms encompass culture, ethnicity, and identity and are rooted in shared cultures and not racial categories.
On the 2020 Census form, people were counted as Hispanic or Latino or Spanish if they could identify as having Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or “another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.”
When using one of these terms, Latino, Latinx, Hispanic to refer to a specific person, always respect their preference. For example, I consider myself a Latina. I prefer that term, but I am not opposed to Hispanic.
It is important to note that Latinos also have different beautiful heritage. I am of Greek heritage. We have colleagues that are Mexican-Iranian, Chinese-Mexican, German-Venezuelan, and so on. This is one of the reasons why the REFORMA International Relations Committee kicked off this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month with a virtual event on The Chinese Experience in Latin America. REFORMA. Afro Latine Affinity Group also presented an event about the Puerto Rican African scholar Arturo Schomburg, and earlier this year we presented an event about Library information services supporting human rights.
Latinos have made significant and transformative contributions to Librarianship in this country.
Sí Se Puede! –We had a Latina as the Executive Director of the American Library Association, and a Latina as first director of ALA’s Office for Diversity and Spectrum Scholarship Initiatives. We currently have Latinos and Latinas as library directors in academic and public libraries, we have many dedicated library leaders in all types of libraries.
As I mentioned, the foundation of REFORMA was a major milestone, REFORMA and Latinos have successfully united forces with librarians from other ethnic groups in the Joint Council of Librarians of Color. Collaboration with ALA’s Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) allowed us to create the Pura Belpre Award, a unique award that bears the name of NY first Puerto Rican librarian. The award is presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.
Librarians have been collaborating following principles of unity for a long time. This month represents an ideal time to reflect, and recharge our energy with the successes achieved by our elders and by ourselves too.
I want to encourage Latinos to celebrate who you are. Who we are! We are amazing, Sí se puede! La lucha sigue! We can move mountains. We have done it many times before. Unidos, United. Sí se Puede!
Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not those of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.