Statement from Chair Rosie Rios Commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month
Each year, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, a time when millions of Hispanics and Latinos celebrate and share their traditions and culture and reflect and rejoice in the moments that cement their American experience. Our community is diverse, bringing together a rich mix of cultures from nations and communities across Latin America and Europe. And for generations, our nation is the place that so many of us have chosen to call home.
Like so many, my American story begins outside the United States. My parents came here from Mexico in 1958. My father was a seasonal worker at the Hunt’s Tomato factory in Hayward, California, where they decided to start their family. I am the sixth oldest of nine children, and my mom raised us as a single parent after my youngest sister was born. She worked around the clock and received support from our church, instilling the importance of hard work and education at an early age…and somehow, she managed to send all nine of us to college. Her story is just one of countless others that follow a similar arc; leaving behind a culture and community, starting anew in the United States, and hoping you are able to give your kids a better life than what you knew. These immigrant stories have colored the American landscape for generations.
Latinos are one of the fastest-growing minority groups in this country – and voices like my mother’s deserve to be heard and celebrated. Now more than ever, these experiences, dreams, and hopes must be uplifted during all of our country’s milestones, including our upcoming 250th anniversary.
Over the next three years, America250 is laser-focused on building a nationwide commemoration that reflects all Americans’ experiences, including those of Hispanic and Latino origin. From eating paellas and elotes to dancing salsa and bachata, we’ve cherished our cultures in our American communities. We have watched Hispanic artists like Rita Moreno, Eugenio Derbez, and Salma Hayek on the big screen, with movies and television shows highlighting our stories. But we have also felt the pain of xenophobia and anti-Hispanic rhetoric in the public square.
The hard work and patriotism of Hispanic Americans have been pivotal to the advancements of this country. We’ve served our country and were the first line of defense against the pandemic; we’ve led cities and celebrated Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor as the first Latina on the Supreme Court; we’ve built communities and watched in awe as Hispanics like Ellen Ochoa traveled to space; and rejoiced when the bell of justice has rung.
A 250th anniversary is a remarkable moment for any country. It allows us to take stock of the past and recommit to building a better future for future generations. Together, we can build a commemoration that is by the people, for the people, and of the people — a commemoration for all of us.
America’s story is still being written, and it belongs to the 61 million Hispanics who call this country home.