by Bianca Perez. This post originally appeared on the NHCOA blog.
Celebrating Latino heritage means rejoicing in our culture and its differences, commemorating our traditions, and applauding our accomplishments. It means feeling proud of our background and exposing others to the beauty that surrounds our lives. For many Latinos who have migrated to the United States, Latino Heritage Month is a way to maintain our connection with our roots and to showcase the beauty that makes up our Latino culture. For those who were born here it is a way to keep the memories of our ancestors alive and to explore the depths of our heritage.
Older adults — our abuelitos and abuelitas or, for some, our parents — are the ones who always make sure that our families don’t forget where we came from. Our values, our music and literature, our cuisine, and even our holiday traditions, the older generations ensure that we keep those alive, and they teach us to value them. We all have that one song that reminds us of our grandparents, or the villancico that brings us back to the noche buenas spent with our cousins in our grandparents’ home. This is why older adults are so respected in our community. They are the ones who remind us of our Latinidad. Without them and their knowledge, their history, we would not be complete, our cultural knowledge would be limited and our children would never know the traditions of our ancestors.
An important aspect of celebrating our culture is remembering those traditions that were passed down from our older adults and cherishing their importance in our heritage. I remember when I was young and I would spend hours in the kitchen “helping” my grandmother cook — I mostly licked spoons and made messes — but I remember how much she loved those times. I now understand that because of those countless hours spent in abuela’s kitchen, I cherish Latino cuisine. All those recipes and the love for her food were passed down to me, and they are now rooted in me to be passed down to future generations. When people ask me where I learned how to cook or where I got that recipe, I am always proud to say that it came from my abuela. It gives me a definite sense of pride in my culture and my traditions. I’m sure each of you has memorable times spent with abuelo and abuela that give you a sense of pride in your Latino heritage.
On this Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s take the time to remember those traditions that our older adults tried so hard to keep alive. Let’s commemorate our customs by cooking our grandmother’s favorite dish, or teaching our children to dance to some of our traditional music. There is so much diversity to be celebrated and passed down to future generations, take advantage of this month long celebration and show those who are not Latinos the beauty of our culture.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.