A new definition of ‘Hispanic’
As we finish the month assigned in the calendar to the celebration of Hispanic Heritage, I made this reflection before an audience of around 300 guests who packed the Lincoln Hall this past week to attend AL DÍA’s Hispanic Heritage Awards Luncheon.
Hispanic Heritage Month, which is coming to an end this week, must be a celebration of all of us— not just the group of people we have identified in the U.S. with that confining label, “Hispanic.”
Here at AL DÍA we prefer a new celebration of the Hispanic tradition —expanded to the long Hispanic History of the past 2,000 years— that requires we do it differently.
More inclusive— as that history has been.
More tolerant of others, especially of those who look and sound different from us.
More neutral and welcoming towards all other races and also all the religions.
Over two millenniums, the ample and deep cultural tradition represented by Hispanics on two different continents has made space for all of them.
Hispanics, in this broader definition, have nevertheless a serious responsibility in 21st Century America.
A true commemoration of U.S. Latinos or U.S. Hispanics should be more a celebration of these differences we all represent.
We somehow know that these differences, properly coalesced and empowered to act together, can propel Philadelphia back onto the national stage.
This AL DÍA Hispanic Heritage Awards celebration is more about the rich potential of our common destiny.
So what has been the role of Hispanics throughout the past century, and in the History of our city?
How do we blend in at the beginning of the 21st Century America and contribute to that portion of the American Dream that lies ahead of us, still unrealized?
We are, no doubt about it, a reinvigorating presence in today’s America.
It is not only about that reliable Hispanic labor force that makes our local and national economy strong.
It is not only the entrepreneurship of our men and women that keeps reactivating entire corridors in our city— whether in South Philly or in Northeast Philadelphia.
They are the very reason Philadelphia finally rebounded after 50 years of population loss that crippled entire neighborhoods.
Because of the Hispanic immigration into our city, we are now positioned to ramp up again.
We are bringing new life and hope to the State of Pennsylvania, as we are doing all across the nation— from California to South Dakota.
It has something to do with the ingenuity of a millennial-rich cultural tradition.
One that fits so easily into the common American culture.
That culture that rewards honest work, discipline, results.
A culture where “earning your keep” is the currency-- the real value that commands respect and eventual recognition.
Latinos are here to help, not to hinder;
To heal, not to hurt;
To bring together, not to set further apart.
To contribute to a new city and a new society where cultural lines may blur.
Perhaps to form, again, one community.
One new and stronger community.