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Hispanic heritage: What does it mean to you?

ASU Hispanic community explores what their culture means to them.
October 13, 2016

As Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close, members of the ASU community share how their background informs their future

There are more than 56 million Hispanic or Latino Americans today — and as many different ways to express that heritage.

It can be shown in distinctive terms (some say Latino, others Latinx or Latin@, a gender-neutral term). It can find expression in a field of study or occupation. Or it can simply be the cultural lens through which one views the world.

Adriana Samper, associate faculty in the W. P. Carey School of Business, grew up in Connecticut with her Colombian parents. It gave her an opportunity to better recognize how backgrounds and culture can affect the way we perceive the world around us.

“I think as an academic that’s something that you’re constantly trying to understand and investigate: why people do what they do, especially in psychology and marketing,” said Samper. “And understanding these two cultures and how people can react very different to the same type of stimulus or news story or simple comment can be very interesting and important to figure out why.”

At Arizona State University, enrollment of studentsIncluding online, on-campus, undergraduate and graduate. who identify as Hispanic or Latino rose 14 percent to 19,226, compared with fall 2015.

One of those students is Tracey Flores, who followed in the footsteps of her Sun Devil parents and is pursuing her doctorate in English education. She is researching Latina adolescent girls and their shared familial experiences through workshops where they write, draw and share stories.

Flores says her parents raised her with a sense of community through service.

“Knowing part of who we are is to serve others and to make this world better through this service and through our actions,” said Flores. “So in my own life the work that I do with youth and families and communities has been very much influenced by the way that I was raised, and the importance of my own family is very evident in the work that I do with families and the way that I work to create spaces to write and create stories.”

As Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close, we asked members of the ASU community about their stories and what their heritage means to them.

What is your heritage?

How did you choose ASU?

How has your heritage affected your work?

What is something you’d want people to better understand about your heritage?

Former Congressman Ed Pastor enrolled at ASU without knowing what he wanted to major in and ended up pursuing a bachelor's in chemical engineering. He later received a juris doctor degree from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and heading into politics.

“I’m very proud to say I’m the first Mexican-American to represent Arizona in Congress, and so for me it’s a great achievement because I helped break the glass ceiling,” said Pastor. “I always felt that being a Mexican-American, I was always proud of it. I never felt that anybody was any better than me or that I was any better than anybody else.”

Deanna Dent

Photographer , ASU Now


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10 things to know during Hispanic Heritage Month

Why does Hispanic Heritage Month start in the middle of the month? Read on.
Hispanic and Latino are not interchangeable, and other facts for heritage month.
September 14, 2016

ASU — where nearly a fifth of students identify as Hispanic/Latino — to host festivals, food events, films and more

Sept. 15 marks the start of Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s a time to honor the contributions that Hispanics and Latinos have made to science, the arts, social justice and more.

It’s also time to notice the unusual timing — a midmonth start — for a heritage month. (Want to know why? Keep reading.)

Hispanics/Latinos represent nearly one-fifth of the United States’ population — and of Arizona State University’s students. In the last 10 years their enrollment has more than doubled, from 7,300 in 2005 to nearly 17,000 in 2015. At ASU, the heritage month is being celebrated with a number of events, including festivals, traditional foods, film screenings, discussions and dance.

The history of nationally observing Hispanic/Latino heritage dates back to President Lyndon Johnson’s 1968 proclamation of Hispanic Heritage Week, to include Sept. 15 and 16 to honor the independence days of several Latin American neighbors. However, it was not until 1988 that Congress would pass a law establishing National Hispanic Heritage Month designating a “31-day period beginning Sept. 15 and ending on Oct. 15.”

10 things to know as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

1. Why the mid-month start? Sept. 15 (1821) is an important date because it honors the day of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

2. Sept. 16 is also a key date: Mexico's day of independence (1810). Many mistake Cinco de Mayo for our southern neighbor's independence day, but the widely celebrated May 5 holiday commemorates the victory at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 where Mexican forces defeated the French invaders.

3. Hispanics/Latinos are considered the largest ethnic or racial minority in the United States at more than 56 million, more than 17 percent of the total population, according to the U.S. Census.

4. At ASU, there were 13,208 students during fall 2015 who identified as Hispanic/Latino — more than 18 percent of the student population.

5. ASU is No. 1 among Pac-12 universities for the number of Latino graduates.

6. ASU was ranked 13th in Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education magazine’s 2015 rankings of U.S. higher-education institutions for the number of undergraduate degrees conferred to Hispanics in several key areas.

7. Oct. 12 is often celebrated as Columbus Day. However, in many Latin American countries and in various U.S. communities, it is celebrated as Día de la Raza — among other names — to honor the discovery of the Americas as well as mixed Indigenous and European heritages.

8. Hispanic and Latino are not the same thing. The term “Hispanic” once represented a relationship to the people of ancient Hispania — the Iberian Peninsula, principally divided by modern Spain and Portugal. Currently, it is widely regarded as a term that signifies the cultural resonance to contemporary Spain and to countries once colonized by Spain (thus, those living in Brazil would not be included). Latino generally refers to someone from Latin American origin or ancestry.

9. The term Hispanic was adopted by the U.S. government in the early 1970s after Grace Flores-Hughes and what was then known as an U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare interdepartmental committee convened to develop a comprehensive term to describe people of Spanish, Mexican, Central and South American or Caribbean (Spanish speaking) descent.

10. Prior to 1970, Spanish and Latin American immigrants were classified as “white” and grouped with European Americans. It was not until 1970 when a separate question on origin or descent was asked on the census. However, this question appeared to only 5 percent of the population. In June 1976, Congress passed a law mandating the collection and analysis of data for “Americans of Spanish origin or descent.” A separate question on Hispanic origin or descent appeared on the 1980 census. Seventeen years later, revised standards on race classifications resulted in Hispanic becoming “Hispanic or Latino.” The term “Latino” would later appear in the 2000 census and further amended in the 2010 census.

The events celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at ASU are part of the broader cultural engagement at the university. Culture @ ASU aims to create a community that values, appreciates and accepts others through a variety of events and activities, while introducing students to the rich cultural fiber at ASU.


The Hispanic Heritage Month Planning Committee contributed to this story. Top photo from the ASU Chicano/a Research Collection and University Archives.