Blog by Raquel Toro, Senior Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for AMA – Tampa Bay

On September 15, we began Hispanic Heritage month. During these 30 days we celebrate what it means to be a person of Hispanic origin. Depending on your personal perspective or understanding of our culture, the first thing you may think of is the language. Maybe you’ll hear a song in your head ranging from the slap of the congas in salsa to the pounding of the bass in reggaetón. You could even taste the sabor of our foods from a rice filled plate to tacos from your favorite restaurant. While all these things touch many of the countries within the heritage, we are much more than that. 

To be a part of our culture is to be a part of an expansive identity. Many of us take a lifetime of self-reflection to understand exactly what parts of the spectrum we fall into or accept as who we are. From language dialects to political beliefs, the range can be extreme. I believe that the identity of our people is a very personal journey that each of us must navigate until we find what feels right. To even label this time as “Hispanic Heritage Month”, blatantly excludes so many brilliant members of the culture who are Latino but not Hispanic. For those that are scratching their heads at that statement, here’s a mini comic from Terry Blas to help:

I’m Latino. I’m Hispanic. And they’re different, so I drew a comic to explain.

With that, is there even a term inclusive enough to respect the expansive identities that our community touches? Can one word fully grasp the meaning of what it means to be “one of us?” If we try to use the academic term, latinidad, we dive into an Anti-Black construct, which diminishes a huge part of our blood and history. Many have found solace in the term LatinX, which releases the binds to gender identity. However, with the foundation of the language heavily rooted in gender, many feel disrespected with this new age term. Then again, what about the members of our community that are gender nonconforming? Should they have to choose an -o or an -a to be accepted? 

While this only skims the surface of the boxes society has created for us, we must begin to recognize that one size does not fit all. To force someone into one construct or another is to diminish the journey of identity. As we draw nearer to the end of our month of celebration, let us consider that identity is a personal and sacred space that we should respect in each of our people. For those that rejoice in the festivities of our month or care for someone within the culture, let us raise our hands together with love, pride, and respect for our individuality; whatever that may look like.

Raquel Toro

Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

American Marketing Association, Tampa Bay Chapter.