Identity refers to the set of traits and characteristics that distinguishes one or a group of people from others. These characteristics make them unique. Identity shapes and determines people's tastes, needs, priorities, and actions.
Throughout our lives, identity can vary, depending on experiences and even age. From these variables emerge the types of identity that reflect how we see ourselves and how others see us. Sometimes they are obvious and clear features. Thus, we have personal, racial, cultural, gender, political, religious identities, just to name a few.
Personal identity is strongly linked to culture, nationality, education and family. Many of us identify as Hispanic or Latino and not by race. Both words are intimately linked to language and geography. Also, to the offspring. In such a way that there can be Latinos or Hispanics, whites, blacks and mostly mestizos. We are the product of an exquisite mix of races, nationalities and languages.
From September 15 to October 15, Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States. Although the holiday began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week, it was enacted into law and extended to one month in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan to highlight and recognize the contributions that the Latino and Hispanic community have given to the country.
I have had the honor of co-producing a special program in English for Spectrum News to spread the word about the celebration in upstate New York. I've written three great pieces for this show. And, I say great, because the contribution of the Hispanic and Latino community is indisputable and remarkable. And it is that when we speak of Hispanics or Latinos in the United States, we refer to the almost 60 million people who identify themselves as such, whose roots are "of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South American or Central American or other Spanish culture, regardless of its race".
Analysts agree that Hispanic immigrants have unquestionably contributed to the development of the country that welcomed us. Without ignoring the contribution of other cultures, the current culture of the United States cannot be understood today without considering the multifaceted contribution of Latino-Hispanic-American immigrants.
In the United States we eat tacos from Mexico, pupusas from El Salvador, gallo pinto from Costa Rica, arepas from Venezuela and empanadas from Colombia. We had sangria from Spain and mate from Argentina. We dance to the rhythm of Puerto Rican merengue, Dominican bachata and Cuban salsa. Not only that, but we read Cervantes, Pablo Neruda and Isabel Allende. We enjoy the Colombian art of Botero and the exotic paintings of the Mexican Frida Kahlo.
In Hollywood, we enjoy cinema with the Venezuelan Edgar Ramírez, Guillermo del Toro, Salma Hayek, Ramón Estévez, Antonio Banderas, Andy García, Eva Méndez and Charlie Sheen. And in music, JLo, Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin, Shakira, Daddy Yankee, Selena Gómez, Christina Aguilera. Although some were born in the United States, they are of Hispanic or Latino origin and have embraced their identity.
41 Latinos make up the United States Congress, and we have Sonia Sotomayor as the first Hispanic judge to hold a position on the Supreme Court. The Venezuelan Carolina Herrera on the catwalks of the world and Ellen Ochoa, of Mexican descent, as the first Hispanic woman to travel to space. Puerto Rican Roberto Clemente was the first Latino to reach the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. And in this line, currently 275 players born outside the United States are in line for the hall of fame, 99 from the Dominican Republic, 70 Venezuelans and 23 Cubans, followed by Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and Colombians. As they say in my country, a piece of fluff, pure Latinos!
According to the Latino Donor Collaborative report carried out in association with Wells Fargo and published by Diario La Opinion, “the Latino contribution in 2020 was equivalent to 16.6% of the country's total activity in finance, insurance and real estate; 13% from professional services; 13.3% in government services and 8.4% in education, health care and social assistance.”
The knowledge and acceptance of their own cultural identity constitutes an important legacy that migrants carry with them and contribute to the society that receives them. And as I said at the beginning, identity is fluid and changes, but maintaining belonging to a territory, even if it transcends borders and language, stimulates the development of kinship, the creation of relationships or social bonds and is a determining factor in the preservation of the history of the communities, their traditions, values, beliefs, cults, among other values.
In other words, it makes no sense to deny cultural identity and on the contrary, to embrace it is our duty not only to protect it, but to understand it in our daily lives, transmit it and be happy, recognizing who we are, where we come from and that we are capable of leaving a valuable and positive cultural historical legacy for generations to come.
UNESCO is clear when it states three pillars of cultural identity:
No two cultures are identical
All peoples have their own culture and cultural identity
There are no higher and lower cultures, just different ones.
So wherever you are, start today by embracing your cultural identity, knowing that you are leaving a mark with every step you take, every word you say, and every decision you make! Let us ensure that the stamp of each footprint is positive, human, cheerful and above all exemplary.