Observed each year from September 15 to October 15, Hispanic Heritage Month honors the generations of Hispanic and Latinx Americans who have influenced and enriched US society. Also referred to as Latinx Heritage Month, the annual celebration first began as a commemorative week in 1968 to coincide with the independence days of many Latin American countries, including Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua. In 1989, the federal government expanded the commemorative week to a month-long annual observance.
In recognition, members of Booth’s Hispanic American Business Student Association are reflecting on their personal experiences and what their multicultural identities mean to them. We’ll be sharing their reflections throughout the month. Check back weekly for new updates.
“I’ve seen firsthand how business and entrepreneurship can shape a family and community. I was shaped by my parents having a small business—my twin brother and I learned how to connect with anyone who walked in the door.
“As I work with the Hispanic American Business Students Association, and work to invest in Latinx entrepreneurs, I’m continually thinking about ways that people can identify and have pride in their Latinx identity. We are the biggest economic asset the country has: we’re young, entrepreneurial, optimistic. For some people, it’s a big leap to think that way, because they’ve heard and internalized so many negative things about what it means to be Latinx. But my goal is that Latinx people in the US have a confidence, a swagger. It’s important that we continue to own our power and name it.
“It’s exciting to try and breathe a new world into being—more so than to maintain the status quo. It’s fun to build community, help people grow, make the country and world better. So much of being Latinx is that we’re dynamic, creative, and we build community wherever we go. I’m proud that it’s a part of who we are.”
“I was lucky enough to have been brought up by a very strong role model: my mother. She was not only an ambitious entrepreneur, but a person deeply rooted in family values. She used to constantly repeat one phrase to me: ‘Dare to be different.’ I still abide by this motto, and it’s helped me stay true to my principles and beliefs through the ups and downs.
“Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate and remember our culture, and it provides a window to share with our community the values and traditions with which we were brought up. My love of Mexico has created a sense of responsibility in me: I want to give back to my country at least a bit of what it gave me.
“Love of food and dancing are crucial to my identity, and both cannot be understood without the cultural context I was brought up in: a country with one of the best cuisines in the world, and with a deep love for music and life. Even at a distance, Mexico and my family are always at the core of who I am.”
“I was born in Ecuador, and was raised between Ecuador, Panama, Israel, and the US. Growing up, I often felt pressure to choose one specific identity. But I can confidently say that identities are not mutually exclusive. I am a proud Latino, a proud American, and also a proud Jew.
“Currently, I am a fellow in both MLT (Management Leadership for Tomorrow) and Toigo, which are two wonderful organizations doing tremendous work with underrepresented minorities. At Chicago Booth I am a co-chair for HABSA (Hispanic American Business Student Association) and JBSA (Jewish Business Student Association). I truly believe that being proud of one’s identity is not enough: one must become proactive and do their best to improve the lives of others in our communities.
“Hispanic Heritage Month to me is a time when we Latinos should celebrate the parts of our identity and upbringings that have shaped us and helped us become who we are in this world. I hope that our community will remain strong and united, while others will consider ways how they can support the Hispanic community, as well as other underrepresented minorities.”
“It’s surprising to me that Hispanic Heritage Month is not more widely commemorated throughout the US, given that we are the second largest ethnic group in the country. But as a first-generation Mexican-American and child of immigrants, I can understand why. There are so many negative stereotypes about Hispanics, and negative things said in the media, that I think many of us feel like we can’t embrace our roots.
“I think it’s time to change that mindset. Hispanics contribute so much to the US through our rich and diverse culture. Our labor force, our purchasing power, and our large number of businesses make us an economic powerhouse. To me, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to reflect that Hispanics have had and will continue to have a major role in the US economy and society.
“It’s also a reminder that we still have a lot of work to do, so that we are strong not only in numbers but in positions of power and influence. A reminder, too, that we need to actively work together to help our community build wealth.”