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A Call for Justice and Action in "Celebration" of Hispanic Heritage Month

A Call for Justice and Action in "Celebration" of Hispanic Heritage Month

Commentary Inclusivity Social Justice


Alejandra Salemi
Alejandra Salemi
We began the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month with the alarming news of forced hysterectomies of women in ICE detention camps. After a summer of outrage against the harm done to Black bodies at the hand of the state, these current events highlight the long history we must face as a country on the harm we have committed on bodies outside of the white American “norm.” 
 
The notion that celebration is how we best honor the beautiful heritage of the Latinx diaspora misses the much larger call placed on us as Christians that supersedes a simple homage for 30 days. Much like the simplicity of saying “Black Lives Matter,” the institutional recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month is counterintuitive to the narratives told to brown/Latinx people in this nation. 
 
“You matter, but I will not protect or defend your humanity when sanctuary cities are being illegally raided by ICE.” 
 
“I love your culture, your music, and your food but this is America and you need to learn English and lose your identity to assimilate into our homogenous melting pot.”  
 
“Our youth group goes on mission trips to your country to help improve living conditions but you are not welcome to come seek refuge here when political or environmental turmoil forces you to escape to safer conditions.” 
 
I want to believe that there is a true desire to invite our Latinx siblings into the community of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. I want to trust the mentors, allies, and friends that respect and appreciate my cultural identity. However, I no longer ask for a month of celebration, spotlight or festivities to affirm my identities. I doubt that Jesus would have been a proponent for heritage month celebrations of groups. He rather invited all freely to the table. He spoke against oppression, injustice, and omission. 
 
I wonder how the legacy and true intention of Hispanic Heritage Month can be honored beyond its yearly end by how we think of our Latinx siblings, our Latinx clergy in cross-cultural appointments or in Latinx congregations that often face higher chances of closure or financial struggle. I wonder how we honor the diversity of this country and specifically the diversity of this state. How will we celebrate them?
 
Perhaps during this pandemic, the best way to celebrate them is through the simple act of wearing a mask. 
 
The largest percentage of youth under 18 that have died from COVID19 have been Black and Latinx children. A celebration of our heritage, a pro-life stance, would embody the act of protecting kids from the potential morbidity or mortality. I urge you to celebrate our culture by the simple act of wearing a mask to protect us all. 
 
Lastly, as we inch towards the end of another election cycle, I would be remiss to answer the question I posed without action. 
 
Vote. 
 
Vote like your children are being separated from you as you seek better futures for them. Vote like your body is being mutilated without consent. Vote like you are the lowest paid woman in America. Vote like you’re working from sunrise to sundown in the midst of a pandemic and wildfires to put food on America’s table with little protection and dignity.
 
I pray for the divinity of Latinx bodies as we face health disparities and political injustice during seasons when we are being “celebrated.” I pray for our Conference, for us to embody Jesus’ teachings of caring for our neighbor and for the oppressed. Through wearing a mask, voting or educating yourself more on these beautiful cultures during Hispanic Heritage Month, I pray that you join us in a celebration of life, diversity, and culture even after the focus leaves our community. 
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Alejandra Salemi, MPH, CPH is pursuing a master's of divinity degree at Harvard University. She also works with the Florida Conference on public health initiatives and research as we strive for more conscious outreach and intentional anti-racism work in our local churches.

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