There are 33 countries in Latin America in the world. 33 different cultures each with their own different type of food, music, dance, language, and way of life. However, in America, some Latinx cultures are represented much more than others. It’s important to represent the entirety of Latin culture, especially during Latinx Heritage Month.
In the media, a few Latin countries are more commonly represented than others. For example, Mexico is a country that has a huge influence on the media, including music, movies, food, etc. Even when walking down a street in Berkeley, one will come across an abundance of Mexican-American restaurants, but far fewer other Latinx restaurants. Cinco de Mayo and Dia de los Muertos are both celebrations that are widely known and practiced. However, people can sometimes associate these celebrations as defining all of Latinx culture.
It is undeniably necessary to celebrate Mexican culture. However, by condensing the many Latinx cultures into a single group, generalizations will be made and the individuality of each culture will be lost.
Some Latinx students at Berkeley High School have been assumed to be a different Latinx ethnicity than they are. Alejandro Vasquez Acosta, a junior at BHS, said, “I remember in elementary school, I’d be like, asked if I speak Mexican. So yeah, I’ve always tried to distinguish myself.” He is one of many Latino students who have been met with harmful generalizations.
Stereotyping all Latinx students can cause BHS students to feel that BHS is not a safe place. By assuming someone’s ethnic background, their family, culture, and even identity is disregarded. So what can BHS do to ensure full representation of Latin countries?
Vasquez Acosta said one solution is to “not just go towards one culture, because Latino culture is a whole variety of things. You have Afro-Latino practices from the Caribbean, you have lots of different types of music and foods. Sometimes you just get one side of it.”
During Latinx Heritage Month, BHS must make efforts to be inclusive. BHS Spanish teacher Carlos Poma suggested that a Latinx cultural festival during Latinx Heritage Month would help BHS do this. “It would be awesome to have a cultural festival,” Poma said. “For everybody to learn and enjoy, and have variety. That would mean a lot, not only to me, but you know, to people from different countries in general.”
By condensing a diversity of cultures and backgrounds into one, the message is sent that people don’t care to truly learn about others’ backgrounds. Instead, we need to create an environment where all students feel they are welcome and belong in order to improve BHS. To do this, our community must learn to recognize and celebrate the variety within the Latinx community.