September 15-October 15 is traditionally observed as Hispanic Heritage Month. This month, we are featuring guest bloggers who are sharing their stories of what it means to be a Hispanic-American and how it has empowered their success.
What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
My mom says that summers en el rancho were always way too hot, and that the nearby river always threatened to flood the neighboring town. She says that the pomegranate trees gave the sweetest fruit and that sometimes all my aunts and uncles would hide among los membrillos to avoid helping my grandpa heard the cows. She tells me stories of when I was young, getting pecked by chickens and sharing my food with our dog. She reminds me of how much I loved the farm and how my grandpa named one of the colts after me. Much of what I know about my short time in Mexico has been told to me by my mother. I guess I don’t really have many memories of mi Mexico querido, yet somewhere in my being the motherland left her mark.
I was born in a small town in Zacatecas, Mexico, a place where access to education and other opportunities continues to be limited to this day. When I was four-years-old my mom and I traveled north to the U.S. in hopes of a better future. Some may say I am a dreamer, but the truth is my mother was the first one to dream of a better life. Even more importantly she was the first to act on that dream.
What challenges do you remember growing up?
As an immigrant, I faced many of the same challenges others face when they move to a new country. I had to learn a new language, learn to code switch, and do everything I could to keep my culture while attempting to fit in. I attended schools where Latinx students were not the majority and where I struggled to find my identity. As I got older I began to understand the beauty in being a Latina and being an immigrant. More importantly, I began to understand the strength that my voice carries and the power of sharing my story. There is power in owning our stories. For me, there is strength in remembering el rancho and engaging in my latinidad.
How should we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?
During this month I believe it is crucial to celebrate the resilience of our people. It is a month to recognize others who have come before us, but also to recognize ourselves for our strength and our existence. For me, it is a month to celebrate that I have graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder this last spring as a first-generation college student. It is also a time to celebrate all that I have done to reshape the various systems of oppression we sometimes face. It is equally important to recognize the great things we are still capable of. Celebrating Hispanic Heritage month, to me, is a celebration of the victories of the past and those that have yet to come.
Jessica Martinez Vasquez was born in Tlaltenango, Zacatecas Mexico to her two wonderful parents Adrian and Mina. She is a recent graduate of the University of Colorado-Boulder with a BA in Political Science. She hopes to continue working toward building strength in her community.