National Latinx Heritage Month, also known as Latinx Hispanic Heritage Month, is a time for Latinx Americans to share their culture and highlight their contributions and achievements in the United States. The month extends from Sept. 15 until Oct. 15 annually.
The word “Hispanic” is derived from the Spanish conquerors who colonized Mexico and has been used to categorize people of many different Latin backgrounds into one group. That is where the word “Latinx” comes into play.
Dr. Nivea Castaneda is a professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Boise State who spends a lot of her time using her voice to advocate for those who have been silenced. She has also been pushing for the use of Latinx in order to eliminate the word “Hispanic” from people’s vocabulary.
“The government formed a name that basically aligns us with the people who colonized us, which is Spain because they also speak Spanish,” Castaneda said. “So [Latinx] is a little bit more inclusive of what we’re about, while also not being in the same category as the people who oppress us and colonize us”
Castaneda also works to incorporate the needs of the Latinx community into her research.
“I locate Latinx communities and I ask them what is it that they need that research could help with, and then we go from there,” Castaneda said. “I do my very best to make sure that they know where I come from and who I am so that they can connect and that they have some sort of a template for how to get where they want to go.”
With the acknowledgment of Latinx Heritage Month, Castaneda also uses her voice and privilege as a Latinx professor to create and connect people across campus and our community. She also has stressed the importance of highlighting the Latinx workforce, especially as Latinx Americans have faced disproportionate coronavirus infection rates.
“One of the biggest issues that we are battling is COVID-19,” Castaneda said. “We have a much higher exposure than other people because we are working, we are in grocery stores and we are in the fields.”
Senior nursing major Maritza Sanchez is a first-generation student at Boise State and a first-generation citizen in the United States. She comes from Mexican heritage and takes a lot of pride in her culture and where her family comes from.
“My parents are both immigrants,” Sanchez said. “And for me, it is really important for me to go to college and to have an education. Whatever I do is for them because of all the sacrifices they had to make to come here.”
In recognition of Latinx Heritage Month, Sanchez has been working on a project she began earlier this year involving the acknowledgment of Latinx farmworkers in Southwestern Idaho.
“We have been able to go interview them, and just talk to them and have heart to heart conversations […] and you realize all the sacrifices they are also making to be here,” Sanchez said. “So for me, it is just recognizing the sacrifices our foreign workers make in order to like for us to have food on our tables.”
Sanchez is very family-oriented and takes great pride in her heritage and the work she has done with other Latinx individuals. This month is all about recognizing and praising those of Latinx heritage for their contributions to societies in the United States.
“If you know someone in your life who is doing great things, show them some appreciation,” Sanchez said. “I feel like we face a lot of uncertainties and sometimes [we] feel like [we are] experiencing imposter syndrome.”
This month is all about recognition and honor; to see what Latinx people are accomplishing and how they are contributing to a much larger community. This month is just the beginning for the Latinx community and the gratitude should remain all year long. For Castaneda and Sanchez alike, it is all about helping others find their voice and turning that into future successes.
“If you are a teenage student on campus, and you want to feel seen; if you want to see someone that looks like you as a professor, come find me. To come find Dr. Alicia Garza, Dr. Dora Ramirez and myself because we are here for you,” Castaneda said. “We will have your back.”