Embracing Hispanic Heritage Month at MacDuffie

Varona Maysonet-Ayala, Managing Editor and Senior Staff Writer

The MacDuffie School, a hotbed of diversity and cultural exchange, has yet another opportunity to celebrate its students with the advent of Hispanic Heritage Month. Our community has already seen surges of celebration with the captivating dance Spanish teacher Gloria Caballero performed with students and faculty during assembly last week. Additionally, student-run organizations such as the Key Club have contributed their support towards Puerto Rico and Mexico in the aftermaths of their natural disasters.

A few individuals of the Hispanic/Latinx population here at MacDuffie hold both an appreciation for our existing celebrations and a desire for more education—and not just in our school. For Caballero, her thoughts on Hispanic Heritage Month, identity, and how Spanish-speakers are celebrated at MacDuffie manifests as a concern for communal diversity. As a Cuban, she identifies as Afro-Caribbean, Latina, and Hispanic.

Caballero went on to say, when discussing her identity, that race is a factor:

“[My identity] has changed not because of me, but because the perception people construct around who I am supposed to be…When they see me they think I am African American. When they hear me speak, they think I am from a Caribbean island, but when I say I am Cuban they look at me in amazement. I’ve had people tell me that this is the first time they see a Cuban that is not white.”

With the current political and social climate of our country, the point she brings up is a significant one. The discussion of Hispanic heritage would be incomplete with the absence of racial and immigration issues, such as the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Dreamer movement.

Caballero went on to discuss the national representation of Hispanic culture, and when asked what the month means to her she responded, “To make it really meaningful for me, it would entail…a real community interaction first among all of us Latino/Hispanics and/with the rest of the United States.”

Caballero is not alone in her sentiments. Sophomore Martina Lopez, who identifies as Latin American (Ecuadorian), conveyed in an email how she possesses a similar desire for education and representation: “I think by taking some time to educate people on the actual diversity of all the Latinx/Hispanic cultures, we can create a more educated environment where people can properly recognize and celebrate the beauty of every culture we have in our school and in the world.”

Lopez also expressed how being Latina is not an exclusive label by any means, “I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m as equal part Ecuadorian as I am American.”

Discussions surrounding labels for Hispanic/Latinx people have been going on for years. Some people define “Hispanic” as pertaining specifically to nations or bodies of people who come from Spanish-speaking origins. For example, someone who is Puerto Rican identifies only as Hispanic, because Puerto Rico is not apart of Latin America. Others counter that Latin American refers to everyone who speaks a language derivative of Latin.

To some people, the distinction between these terms is essential in understanding their identity, and for others, not so much. The best way to ensure anyone is comfortable with a label is to ask.

To say our school is diverse is not just another percentage to plaster on the front of a pamphlet; the MacDuffie School is a hub of identity, culture, language, and education. One of the critical aspects of our education here is to become the most intelligent and aware versions of ourselves we can be; this includes the willingness to understand other cultures and be conscious of diversity.

Though a small percentage of our community identifies as Hispanic or Latino, representation is still crucial in creating a well-rounded social and academic experience. So whether you’re a student or teacher, educate yourself a little bit extra this month, pay a little extra attention, and appreciate your Hispanic peers.