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Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

Felicitas Gómez Martínez de Mendez with her husband Gonzalo Méndez. In 1946, Mendez and her husband Gonzalo led an educational civil rights battle that set an important legal precedent for ending segregation in the United States.

National Hispanic Heritage Month September 15 – October 15

By Allan Jamail

Today, September 15, 2020, marks the beginning of a month long celebration recognizing the contributions Hispanics have contributed to the United States. National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.

Allan Jamail, North Channel Star writer said, “I write this article to honor Puerto Rican civil rights pioneer Felicitas Mendez.” She is a Puerto Rican immigrant and her husband Gonzalo took on California school segregation laws after their three children were denied entry at a local elementary school because of their skin color in 1944.

The success of the Mendez v. Westminster case made California the first state in the nation to end segregation in school. This paved the way for the better-known Brown v. Board of Education when Blacks were also denied an education in a segregated White school. It was this case which would bring an end to school segregation in the entire country.

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation to establish Hispanic Heritage Week. In the proclamation, the 36th president wrote, “The people of Hispanic descent are the heirs of missionaries, captains, soldiers, and farmers who were motivated by a young spirit of adventure, and a desire to settle freely in a free land. This heritage is ours.”

The proclamation recognizes the fact that five Central American countries — Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua — celebrate their respective Independence Days on September 15, while Mexico celebrates it on September 16. As a result, Congress requested that the President issue an annual proclamation designating the week of September 15 and 16 as National Hispanic Heritage Week.

In 1988, Congress passed legislation to amend the original resolution and establish an entire month in honor of Hispanic heritage, leaders, and culture. The term Hispanic or Latino (or the more recent term Latinx) refers to a person’s culture or origin— regardless of race. 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.”

A couple of the many themes the Hispanic Community is using to celebrate their heritage are; HISPANICS, be proud of your past, embrace the future… another is, “Hispanic Americans: A History of Serving Our Nation.” These themes invite us to reflect on Hispanic American’s service and contributions to the history of our Nation.

To participate in this month long celebration and to support Hispanic businesses order some delicious takeout food from a local Mexican restaurant (taqueria).

To learn more about the Mendez family’s struggle to ensure all children could get an equal education visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felicitas_Mendez

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