Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates contribution of Hispanic-Latino community

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates contribution of Hispanic-Latino community

Sept. 13, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
tparham@flumc.org  Orlando {0737}

NOTE: A headshot of Pérez-Félix is available at http://www.flumc.info/photo_gallery2.shtml.

An e-Review Commentary
By the Rev. Liana Pérez-Félix**

In our Hispanic-Latino countries, every day is a celebration of our respective cultural heritages. We live daily the richness of our countries and our history, our customs, the concept of unity in the family, and everything that is part of our daily lives.

It is not until we migrate to the United States that we become aware of the diminishing or lack of these elements that form our being. In some places we have access to the music and products with which to prepare our typical dishes and the opportunity to mingle with people who speak our language. However, there are some who feel somewhat isolated from all that has formed and developed their existence.

Those of us who are part of a faith community feel the support and respect for who we are and why we exist. In The United Methodist Church we have groups such as The National Plan for Hispanic-Latino Ministry, M.A.R.C.H.A. (Methodist Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans), Hispanic Women, Hispanic Clergywomen and others that advocate for the Hispanic-Latino people. This reinforces our unique differences and motivates us to go forward in a process of continuous identification as children of God and in defense of who we are and what we can contribute to this nation, without losing those unique differences.

Having contributed so much to this nation at all levels as Hispanic-Latino people, it is not surprising a Hispanic-Latino heritage month is celebrated each year. Not only does it celebrate who we are, but it is also for the whole nation to celebrate with us the fact that we can be part of this nation without abandoning or diminishing our Hispanic-Latino culture.

As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, the term Hispanic refers to Spanish-speaking people in the United States of any race. On the 2000 census form, people of Spanish/Hispanic/Latino origin could identify themselves as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban or other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino. More than 35 million people identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino.

Statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau in May 2007 show Hispanics are the largest and fastest-growing minority group within the United States, numbering more than 44.3 million and comprising 14.8 percent of the total population (http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/population/010048.html). The report also shows Florida has the third largest population of Hispanics in the Untied States at 3.6 million, behind California and then Texas.

The legislative history of Hispanic Heritage Month goes as far back as 1968 when Congress approved the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Week Sept. 5-16. On Sept. 4, 1974, the week was changed to Sept. 10-16, and on Aug. 17, 1988, Congress extended the weeklong recognition to a month — Sept. 15-Oct. 15 — effective Jan. 1 of the following year.

In the proclamations and public laws legislating the heritage week and subsequent month, people from the United States, especially the education community and organizations concerned with the protection of human rights, are asked to observe this month with appropriate activities and ceremonies.

From high positions in government and its executive branches, to the field of science, armed forces, education, sports, culinary arts, the film and theater industry, music, dance and other arts, the Hispanic-Latino people have made themselves heard in a special manner. Spanish is the language most taught in the school system, and it is already included in all means of communication everywhere and in every established system.

We know that parades, festivals and parties, radio and televised programs, information via the Internet, and great local celebrations are held throughout the United States during this special month. Churches cannot fall behind in these celebrations. We must recognize that our congregations are made up of representations from many Hispanic-Latino countries.

Churches can celebrate by offering a formal dinner with typical dishes and music from the Hispanic-Latino countries represented in the congregation and community or provide outside activities for the congregation and the adjacent community, including typical dishes, music, arts and crafts, flags, and dress from the countries represented in the congregation, community and nation. They may hold special worship services where elements of the Hispanic-Latino culture are included or invite guest speakers to lecture about matters and situations that Hispanics/Latinos are facing. There are many options.

For a list of ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 15-Oct. 15 and a suggested order of worship, church leaders and clergy may contact me at 800-282-8011, extension 180, or liana.perez-felix@flumc.org.

General Board of Discipleship has also developed resources for worship, preaching and music available as free downloads at http://www.gbod.org/worship/default.asp?act=reader&item_id=14913 (preaching and worship) and http://www.gbod.org/worship/hispres.html (music).


This article relates to Hispanic Ministries and Congregational Transformation.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Pérez-Félix works in the Florida Conference Office of Congregational Transformation as director of Hispanic Congregational Transformation.

Contact Us

The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church

450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33815

(863) 688-5563 or toll free (800) 282-8011