Boston spotlights the Latinx community during Hispanic Heritage Month

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Boston spotlights the Latinx community during Hispanic Heritage Month

Mayor Martin J. Walsh at the annual Latino Coffee Hour event.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh at the annual Latino Coffee Hour event.

Elena Plumb

Mayor Martin J. Walsh at the annual Latino Coffee Hour event.

Elena Plumb

Elena Plumb

Mayor Martin J. Walsh at the annual Latino Coffee Hour event.

Elena Plumb, news correspondent

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Last Saturday, Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the city council welcomed Boston’s Latinx community to Harambee Park for the fourth annual Latino Coffee Hour, an afternoon of sunshine, chatter and culture in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.  

What is Hispanic Heritage Month? 

Hispanic Heritage Month is a nationwide recognition of Latinx histories, cultures and contributions. Originally observed as Hispanic Heritage Week, President Ronald Reagan officially extended the week to span an entire month in 1988. Today, the month-long celebration runs from Sept. 15, the independence day shared by Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, to Oct. 15. 

How does the city of Boston honor Hispanic Heritage Month? 

By 2010, Latinx residents comprised over 20% of the city’s population, making Boston a “majority-minority” city. To celebrate the community, particularly at the height of Hispanic Heritage Month, the city council arranges several events in partnership with organizations serving the Latinx population. 

Director of Small Business in the Mayor’s Office Natalia Urtubey has championed the inclusion of the Latinx community through her creation of the city’s Latinx Employee Resource Group, or ERG. The ERG consists of over 50 Latinx employees in Boston serving to increase Latinx visibility in government and produce a safe space for conversation. 

“Latinos make up a huge percentage of both our population and our economic growth in the city,” she said. “Besides all that, one of the interesting things about Latinos is that we come in all shapes and sizes, we have every color in the rainbow, we speak many languages, we have such incredible diversity within our own culture … it’s an opportunity to really celebrate everybody’s perspective.”

 The city has planned a myriad of events outside of Latino Coffee Hour. From illuminating Boston City Hall and the Museum of Fine Arts with an orange glow to tabling from organizations such as Amplify Latinx and Sociedad Latina, celebratory events of any scale are heightened for the month. 

To make these events accessible to the entire community, the city council published a Hispanic Heritage Month calendar that marks every city event catered toward Latinx residents who wish to interact with their culture.

 Not only do these events offer support to Boston’s Latinx residents, but they also empower the Latinx members of the city government. 

“This event is being run by all the Latinx employees of the city of Boston,” Walsh said at Latino Coffee Hour. 

Representation within city government conveys positive messages to residents and kindles positive impacts internally. Architectural Access Specialist Patricia Mendez feels a deeper connection to her career when she is surrounded by her fellow Latinx employees. 

“I’ve been able to be more engaged with my work, loving what I do even more,” she said. 

Jose (Jesús) Garcia-Mota is no stranger to serving immigrant populations in Boston. As a deputy officer in the Department of Citizen Protection at the Mexican Consulate, he garnered years of experience aiding immigrants facing challenges such as poverty and immigration detention. Now, as the city council’s Latino Liaison, he supports communities of immigrants and Latinx residents in Boston.  

“The Latino communities are one of the communities growing fastest in Boston, so I think it is very important to show the community that we are here, we are united … sharing the same feelings, sharing the same types of cultures,” he said. 

The importance of celebration in today’s political climate

President Donald J. Trump’s stirring of chants like “build the wall” may cause some Latinx individuals to hesitate when it comes to displaying their cultural pride. A study by the Pew Research Center suggests that under Trump, Latinx Americans experience heightened concerns regarding their place in the country. 

“I think it’s a unique opportunity for us to really show up for the Latinos around the city that don’t have access to resources, that maybe live in fear,” Urtubey said. “We should do everything that we possibly can to ensure people don’t live in any type of fear in the political climate,” introducing the city’s services in language and communication and immigration

 Mendez further emphasized cultural pride under a presidential administration fostering anxiety. A study by the University of North Carolina’s School of Social Work asserted how Latinx teens were considered happier and healthier if raised in a bicultural environment, so the public encouragement of connection to one’s Latinx culture, as facilitated by Hispanic Heritage Month, could yield positive impacts on future generations.

“We need to continue expanding these kinds of celebrations and initiatives into the schools, into the young people, into the young girls especially, to teach them to be proud of who they are, love themselves, and love their culture,” she said. 

Embracing our differences

At her Colombian restaurant Bohemios, Boston resident and Latinx community member Paula Lopera serves sancocho, a traditional stew to which she compares the ethnic diversity in the United States. 

“Sancocho has a variety of things in it and that’s the beauty of it,” she said. “One thing is sweet, there’s the beef and the chicken, then you put in papa and yucca and potato — they all have different flavors, and that’s what makes the soup great.”

Today, Hispanic Heritage Month serves as a vehicle to celebrate these unique flavors and reclaim cultural pride.  

As Walsh said, “having different cultures celebrated is so important — not just during Hispanic Heritage Month and different times of the year, but throughout the year.”