Heritage month brings people together

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As the dog days of summer wane into the cooler months of autumn, National Hispanic Heritage Month aims to inspire reflection and celebration of the contributions of Latinos to American history.

The Pan-Latino recognition lasts from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, yet comes at a time when political uncertainties plague many in the community — especially those who have benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. President Donald Trump announced the end to Barack Obama’s DACA program just before Hispanic Heritage Month started, which could affect children of undocumented immigrants hoping to achieve the American dream.

Yet, a month of celebration has been more one of sorrow. Devastating natural disasters like Hurricane Maria striking Puerto Rico, and the massive earthquake shaking Mexico City dim the month’s typically festive glow. 

Started by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, Hispanic Heritage Month provides a window for teaching incoming students at many institutions of higher learning throughout the city lessons in empathy and cultural knowledge they may not be all too familiar with. 

Nearby, Manhattan College’s multicultural affairs office, directed by Hayden Greene, honored Hispanic Heritage Month with a variety of observances and celebrations including trivia nights and student-coordinated gatherings. 

“Poetry night at Manhattan College is a great way for students to express themselves,” said Mary Harsh, a coordinator at the school’s multicultural center. “It allows us to learn about fellow students in a way that would otherwise be overlooked.”

The month coincides with the independence movements throughout the Americas, especially in Mexico and Central America, which broke away from the Spanish empire in the early part of the 19th century.

Manhattan’s multicultural center is a place where students can be exactly who they want to be, Greene said, while learning about the diverse people around them.

“If you have a difficult question about religion, socio-economic lines, gender and national origin, you can ask them without feeling deprived,” Greene said. 

The college even brought Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr., on Sept. 16 to share what being Latino meant to him.

“It feels good to know my college embraces differences and helps all students from different places and families feel welcomed,” freshman Judbin Monzon said. “It’s important, and makes me feel connected.” 

Recent political and weather events have mobilized many Latinos living in Kingsbridge, such as the Malecon restaurant located on West 231st Street. 

“We have a lot of Mexican-Americans who are line cooks and clients from the Caribbean who come in and talk about the devastation,” said Lucy Gomez, a 16-year employee and manager at Malecon, in Spanish. “What’s happened is horrible. But comforting our community with food and a place to speak unites us.” 

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