Hispanic Heritage Month, from September 15 – October 15, celebrates the contributions of Hispanic-Americans who have influenced American culture for centuries. In celebration, The Booth Experience Team is highlighting students Juan Pagan, ’21, and Alexandra Salgado, ’21, as they share their unique experiences. This year, we are celebrating Latinx Heritage Month at UChicago with a series of events and festivities.
I grew up in the Southeast side of Los Angeles, in a predominantly blue-collar Latino neighborhood. My childhood was shaped by stories of heroism from the Mexican Revolution and weekend carne asadas (BBQ’s) surrounded by a close-knit family. When I think of what Latinx Heritage Month means to me, it is a celebration of all of these things—the elements that root me in my culture—but it is also a recognition of the many ways we as Latinos have shaped our own identity in the United States.
My identity is as much influenced by my parents’ upbringing in a small rural town in Mexico as it is by listening to West Coast hip-hop, charting new territories as a first-generation college student, and embracing the wonderful diversity that animates California. The Latino community is so immensely diverse that each person would characterize their own identity in unique terms. And while there is no singular way to describe the Latino experience in America, what would hold true across generations, cultures, and languages is our collective effort to define a place for ourselves in this country.
Through music, political and community leadership, art, and entrepreneurship, Latinos carve spaces to express their identities. Just take a look at the amazing churro ice cream sandwich shops here in Chicago reimagining what American dessert looks like, or Bitwise Industries, a Latina-founded tech startup that recently secured $27 million in Series A funding and is working to bring new opportunities to California’s long-struggling Central Valley.
The contributions of Latinos are meaningful, and they are also tangible, as recognized in a recent report by UCLA and the California Lutheran University’s Center for Economic Research & Forecasting. If the U.S. Latino GDP were an independent economy, it would be the 8th largest in the world and one of the fastest growing amongst the world’s developed countries at $2.3 trillion. These numbers point to the fact that, despite the negativity that taints national debates, Latinos in the United States continue to thrive and contribute to the American story.
More information about Hispanic Heritage Month at UChicago can be found at: voices.uchicago.edu/hispanicheritagemonth/events/