It’s time to acknowledge Hispanic heritage in Westfield

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from Sep. 15 to Oct. 15. This year’s theme is Esperanza: a celebration of Hispanic heritage and hope. Beginning during the Johnson administration in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week, the 30-day tribute that we know today was enacted into law in 1988.

While the month was created to recognize the achievements of Hispanic people in America, our own community has neglected to shine the spotlight on this specific holiday.

On Sep. 15, Elizabeth Township hosted Union County’s first annual flag raising for the start of the month. Also, in Plainfield, on Oct. 1, there will be a drive-in movie night to celebrate Hispanic heritage.

8.1 percent of the citizens in Westfield are Hispanic, according to the United States Census Bureau. While there is a smaller population of Hispanic residents in Westfield compared to some neighboring towns, those who live here who are of Hispanic descent deserve their own month to be acknowledged by their community.

Neighboring towns including Elizabeth, Plainfield, Rahway and Roselle proved that they value their Hispanic population with various celebrations within the past two weeks. Although many of these events were hosted by Union County, Westfield did not take it upon themselves to host their own celebration. This shows an alarming lack of recognition for Hispanic people in our town.

WHS has made some contributions to recognize the month. Spanish Teacher Brook Stites said, “We listen to music and/or watch music videos.”

However, this awareness is limited to students enrolled in Spanish courses. While some students get a glimpse into Hispanic Heritage Month through their teachers’ lessons, others who don’t take Spanish don’t get the same chance to learn and celebrate.

The lack of representation in Westfield causes Hispanic Heritage Month to be swept under the rug, making Hispanic students feel even more isolated than they might already feel. Spanish Teacher Rose Calimano said, “Other than Hispanic music being played during homeroom, I am not aware of any activities done to celebrate the month.”

WHS prides itself on being a community that celebrates all cultures, however, all cultural groups are not receiving equal the same treatment. Scarce deco-
rations set up in the library, although appreciated, are incomparable to the publicity other national holidays receive throughout their respective months.

Heritage is a major part of everyone’s identity and Hispanic citizens in Westfield have little recognition to help them connect to that identity. Now that the month is halfway over, it is time to make an effort to honor Hispanic accomplishments and culture before it is too late.