National Hispanic Heritage Month, observed Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 in the United States, celebrates American citizens of Hispanic descent.
When observing this month, the first thing to acknowledge is the historical significance of the time period. The month begins on Independence Day for Costa Rica, El Salvadaor, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. These countries signed the Act of Independence for Central America on Sept. 15, 1821, peacefully gaining severance from Spanish colonial rule. Sept. 16 is Mexico’s Independence Day, the anniversary of Catholic priest Hidalgo y Costilla’s plea for independence in 1810. Two days later, Sept. 18, is the anniversary of the Chilean declaration of independence.
Secondly, this month recognizes Hispanic culture and contributions in the U.S. Almost 60 million Hispanics live in the U.S., about 18% of the current population. Forty-one current congressmen and women are of Hispanic descent. Hispanic cuisine has become one of America’s favorites. Significant Hispanic American figures include Mario Molina, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian honor—and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and acclaimed Dominican American writer Julia Alvarez.
Closer to home, 47 BJU international students and missionary kids represent 12 Hispanic nations: Spain, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Colombia, Honduras, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Peru and Venezuela. Students also hail from Puerto Rico or can trace their family lines to Hispanic ancestors.
Revelation 7:9-10 says, “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.”
The BJU campus is blessed to have a small reflection of this future heavenly diversity in our student body. All students have an opportunity to learn together about culture and history around the world from those who know it best. International students have an opportunity to share their culture even as they learn American culture at BJU.
It’s important to recognize cultural distinctions and that God has made us all different. We should not invalidate the diversity God has given each of us, as we are all fearfully and wonderfully made. But we should “endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) as we celebrate that God has brought us into one family and united us into His kingdom.
Whether you have a Hispanic heritage to celebrate or you are celebrating alongside Hispanic friends, stop to research Hispanic history and accomplishments. Stop and pray for Hispanic countries, especially those hardest hit by COVID-19. Talk to your friends and family about their points of view, culture and backgrounds. Eat some traditional Hispanic food, speak your native language or learn some Spanish. Celebrate our God-given differences and come together in His love as precious, diverse and united image-bearers of Him.