We’re in the midst of a celebration that’s been going for nearly 60 years now — and it’s only getting better.
National Hispanic Heritage Month, which dates to 1968, began as a way to honor the contributions of Hispanic Americans and to mark the anniversaries of the independence of several Latin American countries — Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua.
President Lyndon B. Johnson started with National Hispanic Heritage Week, but 20 years later, President Ronald Reagan did him one better, upping it to a full month, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
Here in the Yakima Valley, where more of us are Hispanic than aren’t, it’s a chance to revel in how much richer our local culture has become in the past six decades.
We’re a Valley that is blessed with more diversity — including Native American, Filipino, Japanese — than most places.
That’s a strength.
A multicultural community benefits richly from the collective wisdom that comes from a range of experiences and perspectives. We have the chance to see things from more than one cultural perspective, which broadens everyone’s outlook.
That wisdom gives our children a head start. They understand the world more fully, more empathetically, when they’ve grown up seeing it in ways their own parents might not have considered.
We’re not Pollyannas, though. Our Valley’s diversity has often been met with not-so-subtle — and outright racist — resistance.
As shameful as that is, in the long run none of it has prevented the Yakima area’s continued advancement. Our community’s resilience has seen us through tense times and helped us emerge stronger, fuller, better.
We’re maturing, and that can be painful now and again. We think it’s worth it, though.
Despite its obvious remaining shortcomings, the Yakima Valley of 2021 is a better rounded, more sophisticated place than it was back in 1968 — or even ’88.
The work and influence of thousands of local Hispanic citizens should get a lot of the credit for that — and that’s a lot of what National Hispanic Heritage Month is all about. It’s why so many classroom and community events are taking note of this month.
Hispanics have helped make Yakima better. That’s well worth celebrating.