Community Voices: Celebrate diversity during Hispanic Awareness Month

Hispanics are a diverse community. From skin tones, to diet, to religious and political views, there is no one trait that can be called true for all Latinos. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children & Families

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Hispanics are a diverse community. From skin tones, to diet, to religious and political views, there is no one trait that can be called true for all Latinos. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children & Families

As we near the end of Hispanic Awareness Month, it’s important to realize that we are a diverse minority. Not all Latinos consume spicy salsas, we don’t all listen to mariachi music and sometimes we don’t even understand each other in Spanish. But the age-old stereotypes still persist today.

While it may be true that of the 56.6 million Latinos who live in the United States, 63.9 percent are of Mexican descent, 9.5 percent are Puerto Rican, 3.7 percent are Cuban, 3.8 percent are Salvadoran, 3.2 percent are Dominican and 2.4 percent are Guatemalan, according to the Census Bureau. The remainder of the population is of some other Central American, South American, Hispanic or Latino origin.

I am from Venezuela and married to a Colombian. For us, arepas and empanadas are traditional meals, but in the 16 years that we have lived in the United States and met Latinos of other nationalities, we have diversified our palates. Nowadays, we know how to make an Argentine version of the empanada and even spicy Mexican enchiladas or traditional Nicaraguan pico de gallo.

Our food is varied, because it is a reflection of how diverse our community is.

And all Latinos don’t look alike. Although I could pass for the stereotypical short, curvy, dark-skinned Latina, there are Latinos with black skin, white skin and indigenous skin tones. Our eye color is black, brown, blue or green, depending on which region we are from or the racial mix that resulted from the colonizers and the indigenous and African populations from where we originate.

As for language, it’s easy to think that all Latinos understand one another because we speak Spanish. But on more than one occasion I have said words that are completely normal in Venezuela, but in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries could start a fight.

Asking for something as simple as a straw in a restuarant can be challenging for Latinos. While I would use the word “pitillo,” a Mexican would request a “popote,” a Costa Rican would say “pajilla,” a Puerto Rican would ask for a “sorbeto,” and a Cuban would use the expression “absorbente.”

Movie theater popcorn would be “crispetas” for a Colombian, “poporopos” for a Guatemalan, “pochoclo” for an Argentine, “palomitas de maíz” for someone from El Salvador or Honduras, “kankil” for those from Ecuador, or “canchitas” for Peruvians.

“Latinos are Democrats, Republicans or Independents. We are Christians, Muslims or Jews. We are Hispanics, Latinos, Chicanos or Mexican-Americans. We are straight or gay. But we are the same community, and that is something very positive,” explained Luis Torres, director of Policy and Legislation for the League of United Latin American Citizens, in an interview with Spanish news agency, Agencia EFE.

Even though we have our differences, here in the United States we are a single and united community who proudly celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 until Oct. 15.