By Carmen Garcia
15 y 16 de Septiembre marks one of the biggest celebrations Laredoans commemorate, as it is Independence Day for our neighboring country of Mexico. As a border town, “Hispanics or Latinos” constitute ninety-five percent of the population, and a good portion are first-generation migrants.
As expected, the streets get filled with peasant-top-wearers, Mariachi music, and traditional food as the Mexican flag flies proudly all over town. TAMIU and The City of Laredo both hold events on campus and downtown to honor the town’s majority culture.
A study was conducted on the day of the events regarding the history behind El grito. The most patriotic individuals were approached and asked ten basic questions about the rich history of Mexico’s war for independence. On average, each person answered one to two questions (out of the ten) correct. Surprisingly, the only individual with factual responses was an international student from Italy.
In the efforts to end discrimination and to change negative perspectives at the national level, it is fundamental to teach about one’s identity—the contributions and other positive aspects made by the Hispanic caste. While there is a quantitative growth of the Spanish-speaking population in the US, the work done by the Spanish media to educate the masses matches the numbers.
Hispanics and/or Latinos have evidently re-enacted their lifestyles in the US, even under the most adverse circumstances, including religious practices, language, gastronomy, music, and literature. It is crucial to raise awareness about other’s identities, not just Latinos, but the migrant in general; and to promote the integration of these individuals to erase the line that selfishly divides our communities. The process of identifying other cultures will and can transform the national status.
The historic process presents the constant conflict between dissimilarities, because identities are ever-changing. For instance, Mexico’s inevitable experience of rejection and inferiority has led its people to seek new personalities. In context, when Mexican nationals migrate to the US, they are forced to leave their native tongue and other customs, including their history. It is crucial to restore and maintain our heritage, instead of disfavoring Spanish-speaking citizens as if they were any “less American” for using a foreign language or practicing unusual traditions.
But as long as there is no sincere feelings of self-worth, there won’t be lasting possibilities of respect from society and its government and institutions. Will we keep ignorantly celebrating, or will we get educated? Today, more than ever, there is a pressing need to fortify the democracy in the US and tolerance is essential, beginning with language and by understanding others’ historical, cultural, and social value.