Hispanic Heritage Month concluded with a virtual gathering of lawmakers and community organizers Oct. 15, where they honored select Bostonians who spoke about their cultural pride.
Offering comments in English, Spanish and Portuguese, city councilors gave congratulatory remarks to one another and constituents on the last day of the honorary month before presenting a video highlighting Latinx community members.
“Latino heritage month is a month, but, every day, all day is Latino pride,” City Councilor Julia Mejia said at the ceremony.
Organized on Zoom, the luncheon was hosted by Councilors Julia Mejia and Ricardo Arroyo, along with Councilor Matt O’Malley, who said he was grateful to partner with fellow lawmakers for the celebration.
“I’m just really incredibly grateful to be here with you all with my brother Matt O’Malley, who’s always been alongside the Dominican community,” Mejia said. “So incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be here with you [O’Malley] and our colleagues, celebrating all of the amazing work that our esteemed invited guests and honorees are going to be presenting here today.”
Councilor Lydia Edwards, who briefly spoke in Portuguese, promoted linguistic inclusivity when recognizing the Hispanic and Latinx communities.
“I wanted to make sure we didn’t forget that large community today as we celebrate all of the contributions, the history, the patriotism, the love, what has made so much of our country great,” Edwards said. “Which is, of course, our Latin brothers and sisters.”
Starting in 1968 nationwide, the celebration was originally observed as Hispanic Heritage Week, according to the Library of Congress. Later, President Ronald Reagan expanded the celebration to span 30 days starting Sept. 15, the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries.
After the introductory remarks, distinguished Bostonians nominated by individual city councilors spoke about their personal and professional experience as members of the Hispanic community in Boston in a 30-minute-long video played to viewers.
City Councilor and Boston mayoral candidate Annissa Essaibi George honored Regla González — special assistant to the League of United Latin American Citizens National President — who noted how the month offers a chance to acknowledge the Hispanic and Latinx communities’ contribution to society.
“To me, the significance of national Hispanic heritage month is an important reminder of how much strength we draw as a nation from our immigrant roots and our values as a nation of immigrants,” González said.
Councilor Andrea Campbell honored Marcos Beleche, board president of the Dorchester Food Co-op. Beleche said his upbringing in a non-English speaking farmworker family along the U.S. – Mexico border led to his emphasis of creating a space for excluded voices to be heard in his current work.
“I also want to say that this recognition honors those who have come before me and those who have yet to come,” Beleche said. “This past year and a half of supporting immigrant small business owners during a pandemic highlighted how critical it is to be present, accessible to those with least access.”
Local advocacy groups also recognized the significance of the celebration. Natalia Pinzon, Marketing Assistant at Casa Esperanza, a bilingual behavioral health facility that specializes in serving the Massachusetts Latinx community, said she spent the month producing content on social media that focuses on addressing the impact of addiction and mental illness in the Latinx community.
“It is a time to commemorate Hispanic culture, to remember the importance it has here in the country and in the world, and to be able to show people with their culture, their music, their stories,” Pinzon said in an interview.