By Rhina R.
Growing up in El Salvador, I never celebrated Latinx History Month. There was no need. Being Latinx in a Latin American country means that you belong. You are seen and you are part of the life of that country. Your validity is not questioned.
Being Latinx and an immigrant in the U.S., however, can sometimes make you feel like you don’t belong, particularly in our current political climate. That’s why it is crucial for us to claim spaces where the contributions of Latinxs leaders and our community as a whole can be recognized, acknowledged, and uplifted. Celebrating Latinx History gives us an opportunity to highlight the legacy of artists, scientists, activists and countless anonymous heros/sheros from our community that don’t appear in any U.S. history book.
The contributions of our ancestors–many of whom arrived in this country before us without much opportunity–have paved the way for people like me who can now begin to claim our space. Take for instance, my aunt Maria, now 78 years old, she was the first to emigrate to this country and opened the way for my mother, brother and I to arrive years later. Tía Maria fearlessly risked her life when she crossed the border, hanging by a thread under a truck. She has cleaned houses for over 35 years and continues to work because she says that if she didn’t work, she would die. So we let her do what she knows how to do best and that is to impeccably clean rich houses in wealthy neighborhoods of Long Island, NY.
Thanks to my aunt and my mother’s hard work, I was able to graduate from law school and my brother is a now transplant surgeon. For more than 20 years, I have dedicated my career to social justice. I currently support the empowerment of trans and queer youth throughout California; this work is close to my heart because I, too, am part of the LGBTQ+ community and seeing young people thrive and live freely is as important as claiming their roots and history.
Every day, Latinx people are making history. In these times when being Latinx is equated with being a foreigner or immigrant, it is vital to revisit the history of our ancestors to ensure that their Latinx legacy continues to enrich the lives of all Latinxs, including those who are U.S.-born Latinxs. Take for instance, Latinxs were part of the history of desegregating schools in America. Huffpost – Latino Contributions to US History
For many of us in the community, learning about the contributions of Latinx folks is an ongoing process that often lasts more than just one month. Here are some ways that you can continue to immerse yourself in Latinx History all year long:
Films: Movies can take us from what’s in front of us to other worlds beyond borders. These Latinx films bring a good array of stories and images. (I want my aunt’s life to become a movie one day.)
Community: The Latinx folks around you–parents, family members, teachers, peers–have a wealth of knowledge about how our Latinx people from across Latin America are improving the lives and experiences of Latinxs in the U.S. Build a community where those stories can be shared.
Resources: Latinx people have been major contributors to the United States in everything from the arts, politics, and social justice movements. Learn more with our LGBTQ+ Latinx Resource, Nuestras Historias, Nuestro Arcoiris.