In today’s “Sunny’s Side”, our Sunny Cadwallader is taking time to recognize Hispanic Heritage Month, before it’s forgotten
In 2015, I wrote the following:
Hispanic Heritage Month. Blink and you may have missed it. At least, in the sports world you may have missed it.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated each year from September 15-October 15 to honor and recognize the contributions of Hispanic (Latino) Americans whose ancestry hails from Mexico, Spain, South America, the Caribbean and Central America. Originally established as Hispanic Heritage Week back in 1968, the month has become a staple of celebration by sports leagues and teams in September.
Note that I wrote September.
Although the “month” lasts until October 15, once September ends, the celebration quickly fades away. The NFL is the most prominent U.S. sports league in action during this time period. The depth of their celebration is documented here. But, it is only a two-week time frame that the NFL and its teams celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
October 1 brings the pink into the NFL with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
There’s no disputing the importance or necessity of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. That’s not the point here.
According to the NFL’s celebration list, only two teams (Bears, Giants) have events scheduled in October. Two. My question is, why does Hispanic Heritage Month have to end September 30, NFL?
The two can and should co-exist even in the 15-day overlap.
But, for whatever reason, they don’t.
When September 15 rolls around, I have a mix of joy and sadness. Joy in the expectation of Hispanic Heritage Month. Sadness because I tend to have an ‘Is it over already?’ feeling as we near the end of September.
This year has been no different.
The biggest sporting event of Hispanic Heritage Month was Canelo-Golovkin 2. Mexican boxing star Saúl Canelo Alvarez defeated Gennady Golovkin in a – is there any other kind for boxing– controversial decision.
On Mexican Independence Day.
The biggest sporting event of Hispanic Heritage Month is already over. Now, what are we left with? Spanish names on jerseys, special hats, t-shirts, and token “most influential” lists that tend toward the “names”.
Come October 1, many sports fans will have already forgotten that it is still Hispanic Heritage Month. Even sports media, obsessed in their Twitter ways, will have moved on to the next thing. If media have moved on, fans most certainly have.
Even as I type these thoughts out, I’m not even sure who or what my frustration is with. Am I frustrated that Hispanic Heritage Month isn’t a typical “month”, thereby leading to out-of-sight-out-of-mind thought processes? Is it because sports leagues don’t know how to celebrate it throughout the month?
Or maybe it’s because the majority of sports sites don’t have the voices to represent Hispanics?
But, how do you actually represent Hispanics?
Therein lies the problem.
What being Hispanic means to someone of Peruvian descent could be vastly different to someone from Tepic, Nayarit. A fifty-something immigrant in Harlem could view it far differently than a second-generation twenty-something from El Paso.
What does it mean to be Hispanic to Hispanics?
To answer that….it’s…complicated. As diverse as we are a people, so will our answers be.
I am a (I think) now a fourth-generation Hispanic, born in Oakland, raised in Phoenix, now living in Eastern Washington. I’ve been immersed in Hispanic culture growing up. Now, I live in a city where I am a true minority.
Being Hispanic isn’t just about a race to me. It’s about my culture – the culture I grew up with and a heavy Mexican/Spanish influence. It’s about my heritage – where I came from, my nana, tata, grandma/abuela, tías, tíos, aunts, uncles, cousins and on down the line.
Who and what they represent to me and how I pass that on to my kids and grandkids is part of being Hispanic.
That’s not to say what Hispanic means to me is the be all-end all. By no means. It’s just that defining it is…
If we have differing opinions about what it means to be Hispanic, how exactly do we define “Hispanic sports fan”?
I also wrote this in 2015:
What exactly is the Hispanic sports fan? I’m still not sure that anyone can define it. We’re multi-cultural and yes, even multi-lingual.
In the social media world I work in, that’s a challenge that many teams, schools, leagues and others face when it comes to connecting with Hispanic fans. There is more to it than a Los (insert team name in Spanish here) jersey.
Trying to put American-born Latinos in the same demographic as Miami Cubans or New York Puerto Ricans or Tijuana-raised Californians — that’s like saying Mexican frijoles are the same as the Caribbean’s habichuelas. Or, Mexican carne asada is like Cuba’s ropa vieja.
Not the same.
With three weeks to go in Hispanic Heritage Month, maybe it’s time for reflection. What should we expect from sports sites and leagues for this month if we, as a people, are beautifully, yet complicatedly, diverse? What are my expectations for the month-long celebration that starts in the middle of September?
To be honest, I don’t know. As I think about it, here, right now, maybe Hispanic Heritage Month isn’t the issue.
The other 11 “months” of the year matter, too.
We’re more than just a label that teams, leagues and athletes can market to. We’re more than the language on a jersey or kit. And we’re certainly more than token stories on sports sites.
We’re Hispanic and all that it means.
To all of us.