National Hispanic Heritage Month kicked off September 15 and runs through October 15. According to the government’s official website on the event, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time for Americans to celebrate “the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.”
This observation originally began as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and, in 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded it to encompass an entire month. Today, institutions like the Library of Congress and the National Gallery of Art host events in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the month-long celebration.
But this year, I don’t really feel like celebrating because, well, what exactly is there to celebrate?
After all, this country elected a man who launched his bid for the presidency by saying that Mexicans are rapists who bring drugs and crime to the U.S. And it didn’t stop there. In any other version of a somewhat normal and sane reality, those remarks would’ve sent Trump’s political ambitions to the morgue. Instead, they only made him more hateful and vitriolic.
Trump continued to target Mexico throughout his campaign, saying that our ally to the south would be tasked with paying for his mythical border wall (Mexico, for the record, has repeatedly said that it will not cough up the cash to fund that monstrosity). He also singled out U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel — who was presiding over the Trump University lawsuit — and said that Curiel was giving “unfair rulings” because of his Mexican descent.
What may have come across as a bizarre obsession with antagonizing and demonizing Mexico and its people during the campaign has since turned into a full-fledged assault against all Latinx communities now that he’s president.
From the ending of DACA to an increase in ICE raids to insisting that American taxpayers pay for that ill-fated border wall, you don’t have to look too far to see that this administration views members of Latinx communities as expendable rather than exceptional.
Why is that? Because by any measure or metric, we are the embodiment of exceptional. For centuries, Latinx folk have been integral threads in the fabric of the United States:
During the American Revolutionary War, Cuban women helped George Washington fund the Battle of Yorktown against the British. In 1781, a group of Spanish, Afro-Latinx, and indigenous people known as “Los Pobladores” left colonial-era Mexico to establish the city of Los Angeles. It’s estimated that 500,000 Mexican-Americans served in the U.S. military during World War II. Before Brown v. Board of Education, there was the landmark Mendez v. Westminster case, in which a judge decided that California could not segregate its school system based on national origin or language ability.
César Chávez created the United Farm Workers of America to improve the living and working conditions of farm workers in the U.S. Rita Moreno is one of the few artists to receive all four major entertainment awards: an Oscar, Grammy, Tony, and Emmy. Mario J. Molina received the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his pivotal role in the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole. Carlos Santana developed a distinctive style of rock fused with Latin, jazz, and blues and has sold more than 90 million records.
I could go on and on. And while I understand that Hispanic Heritage Month is intended to shed light on these and the many other accomplishments made by Latinx folk, in this sociopolitical climate, that intention rings hollow. Trump might’ve made a generic White House proclamation, but those words are empty until his administration starts to practice what it claims to preach.
Mekita Rivas is a multiracial writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. In addition to ROAR, her work has been featured in Bustle, GOOD, Racked, Romper, and Teen Vogue. She holds undergraduate degrees in journalism and English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her current projects include a collection of short stories and a feature film screenplay. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram.