Happy Hispanic Heritage Month PTC readers! September 15th marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month- a celebration that extends until October 15th each year- which amplifies the culture, history, and contributions of Hispanic people from all over the world.
Hispanic-Americans with ancestors from countries such as Spain, Mexico, Central/South America, and the Caribbean are encouraged to celebrate this observance with historic festivals, teachings, and conversations during this time.
Each Hispanic Heritage Month, there is a theme that correlates with the information that is spread during this commemoration. This year, the theme is “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope”.
The theme was announced by The National Council of Hispanic Heritage Month earlier this year, and it is meant to inspire Hispanic-identifying people to focus on personal resilience and the strength that the Hispanic community has displayed.
I can say from a first account that Hispanic people are quite resilient and brave, as my mom and her entire side of the family immigrated from Bogota, Colombia about 35 years ago with next to nothing.
As we introduce the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, specifically the commemoration of hope, I thought it would be fitting to share a portion of my mom’s experience regarding her immigration to America.
My mom was living comfortably in Bogota, Colombia with her three sisters and parents from the 1960s-80s. My Abuelito was a business owner and was able to provide a wonderful life for his wife and daughters. However, his business ran into some financial hurdles, so he had the idea to come to America, the land of opportunities.
My grandfather moved to Brooklyn, New York by himself to set up a place to live and a business that would sustain his family. Money had become extremely tight, but he was able to find a 2-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn in their price range.
My Abuelito became a locksmith in New York, as it was a trade that he had learned in Colombia and relied on for his previous company.
My Abuelita and two of my aunts were the next to come to America. Both of my aunts were still in school, so they needed to move earlier than my mom and oldest aunt, who had already graduated, to become accustomed to the American school system on time.
Finally, my mom arrived in America during the summer of 1986 with her oldest sister and nephew- ready to start a new chapter in her life.
The American Dream was not the easiest goal to achieve, with 7 people living in an apartment that was meant for 4 at most, you can imagine how difficult it was at times to merely have a schedule or routine.
My mom worked tirelessly at a publishing agency and health insurance company with her sister to make money for the apartment and family. She mainly learned English from sitcoms that were played on their only TV.
While life was not always easy, my mom, along with her sisters and parents were able to establish a beautiful family. My mom met my dad on a subway in New York City and they got married a few years later. Several years after, I was born.
My Tia, Clarita, met her husband years before and had the next of my two amazing cousins in 1990. Two men that I consider my brothers are here because of my family’s choice to come to America.
My other aunts went on to higher or alternative education and had successful careers in the medical and science industries. They both had marriages with great husbands and left the tri-state area, but I still see them when I can.
My grandparents were able to retire from the immense work they put in as a caregiver and locksmith. They moved into a cozy apartment in Brooklyn Heights, the same place that I return to almost once a month for Arepas and coffee.
I share the story of my family to hopefully inspire those who read this blog today. Life as an immigrant is not easy. You must learn a new language, a new way of life, make new friends, find a new job- the list of “new” things that are required of you are never-ending.
But it’s through the resilience that thousands of Hispanic people have displayed in past decades and present times, that allows for my fellow Hispanic-Americans to become close to our culture and understand the sacrifices that our lineage has made for us.
Whether you are a first-generation baby like me or are several generations down the line, today is a day to celebrate our heritage. The work ethic that has been instilled in me, and the drive to never settle for less, are lessons that I will never forget. Thanks to my Colombian culture, I will forever have hope when the going gets tough.
Today, we celebrate hope and the idea that we are stronger together as a community. To all my fellow Hispanic-Americans, I wish you a wonderful Hispanic Heritage Month. I hope that you can find your resilience and get closer to your culture this month, and every day after.
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