Earlier this month, I met a friend for lunch at a little local restaurant that serves Papusas. Ours were the only white faces in a sea of golden brown ones. As Spanish flowed all around me, I poured hot sauce and cabbage slaw on my papusa and gave thanks that my world can be so full of flavor.
Hispanic Heritage Month began this week. Beginning Sept 15, it runs until October 15. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile all celebrate Independence Day during this month.This is a time to celebrate Spanish speaking countries and recognize how much beauty and goodness they bring to our world.
In case you were wondering, Hispanic means coming from a country where Spanish is spoken, and includes Spain. Latino is anyone from a country south of the US border. The two terms cannot be used interchangeably as one refers to language and the other geography.
Large portions of our land used to belong to Mexico – Texas, California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona, about half of New Mexico, about a quarter of Colorado, and a small section of Wyoming. It is important to remember those who once walked these lands and laid the groundwork for much of what we have today.
Every year, more than 1 million migrant workers leave their homes south of the border to work on farms across the US. They plant the fields, tend the crop and, finally, harvest and pack much of the produce that we consume daily. My mom and aunts share stories of growing up on my Grandpa’s farm in Michigan. Every summer, workers would come from Mexico and work in Grandpa’s field, picking tomatoes and cucumbers. Today, these workers spend long days in the sun, making far below minimum wage, around $7500/year. Many migrant workers also work on farms in Mexico, where much of the produce is exported to the US. There they sometimes make as little as $7/day. Remember those tired hands the next time you reach for your bag of greens in the market.
Hispanics contribute greatly to the work force of our country. While they are well known in the restaurant and food industry and we might think of them every Taco Tuesday, they also keep our meat processing plants operating. But they bring so much more than this and can be found at work in our schools, hospitals, landscaping companies, construction, in our government and much much more. They serve our country, with 1.2 million being veterans of the US Armed Forces.
Hispanic households are an important factor economically. They own and operate over 4 million small businesses across the US and are seeing growth rates of 31.6%, while other businesses are growing at an average of 13.8%. They account for a large portion of American spending power and contribute billions to Social Security.
I cannot imagine The United Sates without our Hispanic brothers and sisters. They bring much needed flavor and light and we do well to not only celebrate with them, but to celebrate them!