September 15 – October 15: What This Time Means to Us
On September 15, 1821, five nations declared their independence from Spain.
Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua were not the first countries to do so after colonization and three centuries of rule by the Spaniards and the Portuguese. (Mexico and Chile had declared their independence from Spain 11 years earlier.) However, the movement for independence that had begun in 1808 with the French invasion of Spain reached a turning point in the fall of 1821.
And there was no turning back. By 1825, Spain had lost control over all of its colonies on the mainland of Mexico, Central America and South America. The island of Puerto Rico became independent in 1898 and the island of Cuba followed soon thereafter in 1902.
A Monthlong Celebration
To signify the anniversary of these countries’ independence, National Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15 each year. This annual event celebrates the cultures, contributions and histories of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
What began in 1968 as a weeklong celebration became a full month in 1988. To many, even 30 days is not enough time to give justice to the breadth of cultures and traditions that make up the second largest ethnic group in our nation.
Scroll to the bottom of this post to see how you can celebrate with FRCC this month.
A Broad Umbrella of Traditions
FRCC student Jose Perez point out that each of the groups within the greater Hispanic umbrella has its own rich and fascinating history.
“My parents are from Zacatecas, Mexico, which has many traditions that are quite different than those in other Mexican states,” says Jose. “Visiting there often when I was young shaped who I am. The many cultures even just in Mexico are so unique from one another. I like that this month encourages people to learn more about some of them.”
Where Did the Word “Hispanic” Come From?
“Hispanic” is often used interchangeably with “Latino” to describe the broad group of people who make up about 19% of the United States population. However, the term was first used in the 1980 U.S. Census to categorize immigrants from Spain or Spanish-speaking countries and their descendants.
“Latino” later emerged as an alternative, referring to those from Latin America, which includes the country of Brazil, a Portuguese-speaking country. The term “Chicano” also arose—first in the 1940s as a slur used toward lower income Mexicans.
Mexican Americans later reclaimed the word Chicano in the 1960s as a show of self- and political-empowerment. In the US, “Latinx” has gained support in recent years to reflect the LGBTQI and feminist movements to be more inclusive of people who fall outside of the male or female gender binary. “Latine” is another option that is a gender-neutral form of the word Latino, created by gender non-binary and feminist communities in Spanish-speaking countries.
How I Identify
To many, how they self-identify depends based on their diverse experiences and upbringing. Recent research shows that among Hispanic adults, half most often describe themselves by their family’s country of origin or heritage—Puerto Rican, Brazilian or Mexican, for example.
Becky Chavez, director of TRIO Student Support Services at FRCC’S Boulder County Campus, says that she identifies as Chicana, as someone who is politically active in her community and a fifth-generation Coloradan.
Learning the History of My People
“Until I went to college and took Chicano and ethnic studies classes, I didn’t know the history of my people,” says Becky, who holds a master’s degree in history and is working toward an EdD in leadership for educational equity. “But that opened my eyes and led me to learn so much.”
“I feel that this month brings an awareness of the history behind Latin American countries getting their independence. This celebration creates an opportunity to learn about the fabric of diversity among people from Latin and South American countries. It is wonderful to embrace those differences.”
At FRCC, Latinx Students Thrive Through LEADS
FRCC is committed to inclusive excellence, educational equity and advancing opportunity for all. Programs like the Latinx Excellence Achievement and Development Scholars (LEADS) program help students become better role models and develop their leadership abilities through the guidance of a mentor.
Paulina Ruiz Lang Cervantes is a student who is part of the LEADS program. In Mexico, she worked in marketing and communications for Kellogg’s and Mars, Inc. for 18 years before deciding to move to the US for an adventure with her two young children last year.
She’d studied abroad for a semester in college at the University of Colorado Boulder and was familiar with FRCC. Paulina enrolled in fall 2022 and is working toward an Associate of Arts degree in studio art.
Broadening Her Horizons
“I have learned so much during my time here about the culture of Mexican Americans, which is different than my culture as a Mexican,” she says. “The LEADS program has made me feel like I am a part of the college and has helped me learn a lot about the culture of Latinos in the US.”
“It’s important that people are open to understanding why people come to the United States from other countries—whether they do so to seek asylum, study in college or join family already living here.”
Celebrating Our Past, Acknowledging Current Issues
Emilia Morales is a 2023 Associate of Arts graduate from FRCC who joined the college as a full-time employee in April 2023. She is now the coordinator of cultural and leadership programs—the same area she had worked as a student at the college. She helps create a welcoming space for students in the Multicultural Center at the Westminster Campus and helps support and run the LEADS program.
“This month to me is an important time to recognize who we are and where we come from as Latinos or Chicanos or whatever you identify as,” she says. “But I think about the people who are trying to seek refuge to escape political unrest and violence.”
“It’s a month to celebrate people and food, art and music—but it is also a time to recognize what is going on today.”
Becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution
FRCC has begun the process of becoming a federally recognized Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI)—today Hispanic students make up almost 25% of the student body at the college. But the impact of becoming an HSI will extend far beyond the federal designation.
It is also an intentional commitment to help these students thrive, says Chico Garcia, dean of student development. He serves on the FRCC HSI Task Force and is part of the smaller “core team” driving the initiative forward.
Sense of Belonging
“We want Front Range to feel like home to Latinx and Hispanic students,” says Chico. “They should feel like they belong here and have the support to maneuver this place that also belongs to them.”
On a personal note, Chico says that his own heritage is a source of pride as well as a reminder to appreciate the efforts of his ancestors.
“To me, National Hispanic Heritage Month—and celebrations like it—create confidence and comfort for those of us who identify as Latino or Hispanic,” he says. “But I also reflect on the struggles and accomplishments of people in the past.”
“I never take for granted what it took people to get to the place where we are today. My successes are not just mine. They come with a massive sense of gratitude.”
Celebrate With FRCC
Join us as we celebrate Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month at each of our campuses! Here’s just a taste of what’s in store:
Cultural Resources: Immerse yourself in the captivating stories and artistic expressions that shape Latinx heritage.
Flavorful Delights: Embark on a culinary journey that tantalizes your taste buds with an array of delectable Latinx dishes.
Luchadores Showcase: Brace yourself for an electrifying spectacle as luchadores, the iconic masked wrestlers, take the stage. Marvel at their athleticism, charisma, and the stories they embody through their high-flying acrobatics and dramatic showdowns.
Community Connections: Forge new friendships and strengthen existing bonds within the Latinx community.
We hope you can join us for one of our campus celebrations during national Hispanic Heritage Month!
Viva la Cultura—Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month
Boulder County Campus
Monday, September 18, 2023
3:00 PM – 7:00 PM
FRCC Boulder County Campus
2121 Miller Dr. in Longmont
Classroom Building Courtyard
Tuesday, September 19, 2023
11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
FRCC Westminster Campus
3645 W. 112th Ave. in Westminster
Rocky Mountain Room (near the Rotunda)
Wednesday, September 20, 2023
11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
FRCC Larimer Campus
4616 S. Shields St. in Fort Collins