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By: Lindsey Tabor, Communications & PR Manager for the Hispanic Alliance
Hispanic Heritage Month Revives and Uplifts
Calendared from September 15-October 15, Hispanic Heritage Month brackets the independence days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Chile, and Belize. It commemorates the culmination of profound shifts in thinking + culture that overcame oppression. Hispanic Heritage Month 2020 is the perfect time for a revolution – a revolution of perspective and ideas.
Greenville’s Hispanic community has experienced a disproportionate amount of sickness and economic loss because of COVID-19, and Hispanics in our area are embracing a shift in thinking, rediscovering the power of relationships, and expanding beyond their comfort zones to bring a unified front to the battle for their community.
Celebrations in times of struggle take on a more earnest tone than in times of plenty, but celebrate we will. As we have since 2015, Hispanic Alliance marshals the Upstate to honor the traditions of a tapestry of Spanish-speaking and Latin peoples, through our community platform, HispanicHeritageMonthSC.com.
To celebrate on a local level during this unprecedented time, community members are encouraged to both submit and participate in virtual and in-person events using our Events Calendar. In addition, you can also nominate a Hispanic hero for our daily Instagram shout-out – “30 Days of Hispanic Heritage.” Or, you can plan your own movie night or watch party with Noches de Cine, a curated list of noteworthy Hispanic films that will be released on Sept. 16 in partnership with the SC Arts Commission.
Furthermore, if you are looking for a new perspective on your Hispanic neighbors, keep reading for more about the work and thinking of the most locally impactful Hispanic groups. You can also subscribe to the Hispanic Alliance for our in-depth digital articles released weekly during Hispanic Heritage Month. ¡Viva la Revolución!
New Life in the Forest of Legacies – Celebrating Hispanic Heritage
A dear friend and coworker of mine at Hispanic Alliance, Sara Montero-Buria, just gave birth to her first child, an adorable baby girl. She and her husband gifted her with two Spanish names, Paloma, meaning “dove,” and Ximena, meaning “listener” – the first of many gifts from her Hispanic Heritage that will color her budding identity.
Her new beginning coincides with the start of Hispanic Heritage Month. However, in a year in which many Hispanic families have had to resort to feeding their children through charity, the rituals, costumes, and cuisine that mark this time lose some of their festive feel. It has made me wonder, what would I tell Paloma (if she could understand me) about Hispanic heritage, that is firm enough to keep her grounded as she grows within a time of remarkable upheaval?
Perhaps, I would trace the forward movement of Hispanic cultures through the power of ideas, ideas only revealed in the face of adversity, fueled by the desire to create a better future for a beloved community. This legacy is being continued today within the Greenville Hispanic community, driven by the need to protect loved-ones from a pandemic and its accompanying sorrows. To honor Hispanic Heritage Month in a manner congruent with our time, Hispanic Alliance is celebrating four partners who exemplify this legacy with innovation and unity: The Hispanic-American Women’s Association (AHAM), the Latin supermarkets supporting “Canasta Básica,” Jesus El Rey Assembly of God, and PASOs.
AHAM is the oldest Hispanic nonprofit in Greenville, and its sole focus is education. These women have raised over $367k for scholarships and sent over 120 Hispanic students to college in a span of 22 years. When COVID-19 arrived, these ladies flexibly responded to real-time community needs. “To recover, our community needs skills. The more knowledge they have – that is what will help them survive,” says AHAM President Vanessa Campana. She and AHAM’s members took this belief to heart, as they challenged themselves to master new technology and form new partnerships. They sewed and distributed masks to vulnerable communities and learned how to build and manage a food distribution operation which has sustained many homebound and sick community members during this year.
Stepping outside of one’s traditional role and business model is a particularly challenging ask, but it can bring about lasting rewards. Beginning with pioneer Jorge Celis and Supermercado Los Arcos, La Esperanza, La Unica, El Sol, and Guatemex joined the Hispanic Alliance Canasta Básica initiative to provide culturally cherished food and vouchers for fresh products to families in need at trusted places. The devastation from the pandemic allowed this group to see the power behind their businesses with new eyes. Samuel Castro, owner of Supermercado El Sol, says, “It is about giving what is within your reach, whatever your condition or economic situation might be. What you can give, give it!”
PASOs Greenville is an organization of just three people within Prisma Health Upstate, tasked with serving the health access and education needs of all Hispanic patients. COVID-19 resulted in reduced hours, grueling days at community testing sites, and one of their own falling ill. Why is their manager, Rut Rivera, hopeful despite all of this? She states the Hispanic community has responded to the crisis with a hunger for knowledge: “I see a lot of people who want to learn and follow the [health] guidelines. Our community is going to be more open and understanding to learning, and to seeing outside of their perspective when it comes to health and the economy.” She and her team have fought this uphill battle to save lives for years. Seeing their work finally being met with open ears is a victory.
Jesus El Rey Assembly of God has made disaster response + food distribution part of their ministry for years. They were hands-down one of the most prepared groups to respond to the pandemic, launching “Feed the City,” an initiative which currently serves up to 100 people a week. Pastor-Dr. Manuel Izquierdo is unfailingly positive. Yet, as a visionary, he often finds himself alone at the forefront of community planning and thinking, often convincing others to follow. “My concern,” he says, “is what is the next crisis going to look like?” In short, I shared with him the thirst for renewal expressed among the many people and partners collaborating through Hispanic Alliance. “Exactly!” he exclaimed, “I am so glad that is the mindset of others, also! …The mindset of opportunity rather than oppression.” When all your steps are leaps of faith, it is so good to have others leaping with you.
That is why Hispanic heritage is relevant for the start of a new life. Paloma is not alone. She is loved by virtue of living in this community. She will have the unfailing support of the people behind these stories, an extended family deeply diverse in culture but united in love. She will grow up in a forest of legacies – strong enough to help her face whatever life brings to us tomorrow. Each of these groups has a compelling legacy of their own. Please read more during Hispanic Heritage Month, by subscribing to the Hispanic Alliance weekly e-newsletter.