Observing Hispanic Heritage Month

  • Published
  • By Chaplain Gabriel Rios
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Chapel
"Hola, como estas?" That is Spanish for, "How are you doing?" A good response would be, "Yo estoy bien, gracias."'That means, "I'm doing fine, thanks."

Every year we celebrate Hispanic Heritage month during Sept. 15 - Oct. 15. It is a month of cultural awareness. Hispanics have been in the continental U.S. since Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez established St. Augustine, Fla., on Sept. 8, 1565. Since then we have been in a cultural metamorphosis and have adapted to the reality of America's lifestyle. The process has been long and continues even today, merging our past and background with current mainstream society.

During this month of celebrating Hispanic heritage, please take time to learn more about our culture. Taking time to do some research won't hurt at all. Let me provide you with some general characteristics that distinguish us in relation to the American mainstream culture. I hope these will give you a better understanding of the Hispanic culture.

The Hispanic community has been faced with quite a challenge of adapting to the mainstream culture. We are proud of our heritage, values and culture, but at the same time we love, appreciate and embrace American culture. I call that acculturation, or the process of acquiring a second culture, which most Hispanics do.

Few Hispanics experience assimilation, or the process of replacing one's original culture with a second culture. We celebrate July 4 but also commemorate holidays like May 5. We support the U.S. soccer team, but when they play against any Hispanic team we cheer for the Latinos. Just recently, while watching the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, my heart was for every Hispanic who was competing.

It is not easy to maintain a bicultural life, especially those of us who are parents. Our new generation is fully immerged in the mainstream culture and lifestyle, and we struggle to keep them aware of ours. I assume our children also struggle trying to keep up with our expectations.

This makes me realize that all of us should make an effort to understand each other. After all, we are a part of our beloved country and we need to live in peace and harmony. I hope that this month, as with other cultural celebrations, we seek understanding with our neighbors. God bless America, Dios te bendiga!