How to honor Hispanics?

José López Zamorano | La Red Hispana 
Photo Credit: Luis Quintero / Pexels

Like every year, the United States will toast Hispanic Heritage Month with margaritas and mariachis.

We will read proclamations issued from the marble buildings of the White House and the Capitol, extolling the undeniable contributions of Hispanics to the economy, health and culture of this country.

In Washington, for example, seven entities; the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Gallery of Art, the National Park Service, the Smithsonian Institution, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum joined forces to pay tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched this nation and society.

Oh good, we deserve it! After all, we have fought shoulder to shoulder for freedom, independence, and justice in every great battle in American history, in the Civil War, in World Wars I and II, in Korea, Vietnam, in the two wars in Iraq and in the fight against global terrorism.

More recently, an army of Hispanic essential workers – medical personnel, farmworkers, meatpackers, service employees – have risked their lives every day in the front lines of the battle against the COVID pandemic.

So, in effect, we deserve all the proclamations and epic poems.

But the United States still owes a historic debt to millions of undocumented Hispanic immigrants, marginalized and with no choice but to live as second-class citizens, in the shadow of a society happy to have them fix their houses, mow their yards or take care of their children at low cost. But not to invite them to share the table, the bread and the salt, as equals.

At this time I do not see political capital being invested to revive the blissful immigration reform, or for the full reform of the asylum system to attend to the millions who continue to arrive at the border or for the provision of resources to the immigration agencies that have become legendary for their delays in serving their users, who pay first-world rates to receive fifth-class service.

They are complex and structural challenges that demand comprehensive and innovative solutions. But they will not appear by magic. The United States hosts all kinds of global ‘summits’, so let’s have a domestic ‘summit’ against poverty, illiteracy, inequality and drug abuse.

Of course, no one is asking for exceptional treatment just for Hispanics. Our problems and challenges are shared by millions of people of all colors and all nationalities. Those reforms benefit us all.

And they would let Hispanic Heritage Month be not only a symbolism, but also an example that deeds count more than words when it comes to honoring our heritage.