COLUMN: Being Hispanic is more than just speaking Spanish

Sept. 15 marked the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month. Here at SFA, Hispanic students make up 19.8% of the student population, the second largest ethnic group on campus. As a Hispanic student, I know that even though we are the second largest ethnic group, feelings of being disconnected or of being an outsider to our own culture are not uncommon, especially when we might be hundreds of miles from our families. But, I want other Hispanic students to know that the best way for us to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month is by embracing our Hispanic or Latinx roots throughout our college career. 

One of the main reasons I’ve seen my Hispanic friends and other Hispanic students feel distant from their culture is because they don’t know Spanish. Though I am able to speak Spanish “fluently,” there are still many words or expressions that I don’t know because I’ve never needed to use them.  I often mistake “spanglish” for Spanish, or I mispronounce words because no one has ever corrected my pronunciation. And, I know that all this can add up to make one embarrassed of their broken Spanish to the point where they’ll stop using it or disconnect from the culture entirely. I say: embrace the Spanish that you do know. And if you still feel insecure, don’t forget that you're at a University with all the resources to be your best; sign up for a Spanish elective if you have to. But, don’t forget that while a common language is something to bond over, there is so much more to being Hispanic. 

Hispanic cultures have some of the best food you will ever taste; and if that’s not something to embrace, I don’t know what is. I mean, there’s so much more than just tacos; there’s posole, menudo, arepas, mofongo, ceviche, sancocho and the list goes on. Combine that with dancing and great music like cumbia, banda, bachata or even reggaetón, and you’ve got yourself a party. If you can’t find these things on campus, remember Nacogdoches has many Hispanic restaurants, businesses and stores to make you feel at home. My personal favorite is La Michoacana, a store where you won’t only find Mexican food but also many Hispanic products and brands you won’t find anywhere else.  

And while speaking Spanish and eating Hispanic food might make up a part of our culture, another huge part is the way we were brought up and the morals we were taught as children that made their way with us into adulthood. I’m sure many of us, depending on what country our parents or grandparents are from, had a similar upbringing. We were taught to respect our parents above all else, to be humble throughout our successes and to never forget where we came from, no matter how high we soar. I’ve seen many of us Hispanic students use these values on a daily basis without realizing it because they’ve just become a part of who we are. 

If you’re finding it difficult to connect to your roots here on campus, there are many Latinx student organizations that you can join, like Organization of Latin Americans, League of United Latin American Citizens or the Latinx Student Movement, among others. Through these groups, you’ll have more similarities with other Hispanic or Latinx students than you realize. Let yourself be friends with people who connect you to your culture. 

As a college student, I understand I must excel in academics to achieve the professional career that I want. And as a Hispanic college student, I know that my success does not just belong to me. It belongs to the people and culture that brought me up into the person I am today. That’s why I don’t think our culture should be celebrated a month out of the year. You should celebrate it after every A+ test, every award, every scholarship, every promotion and for each one remember who and what you came from. Who cares if you don’t know Spanish? Being Hispanic and Latinx is in our blood, in our way of living life. Embrace your heritage and bring it along through all your accomplishments. 

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