We are celebrating Hispanic heritage month, a time to “pay tribute to the generation of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society,” according to the U.S. government’s website. As someone who is undocumented, queer and post-bone marrow transplant, this month takes on a different meaning. For young migrants like myself, it means having an opportunity to redefine America’s perception of us.
This month is a reminder that the political forces in power are responsible for the chaos, not only in our home countries, but also here in the United States. We will no longer take the criminalization of us fleeing danger. There was a time when the Bracero (“Field Worker”) program brought millions of Latinx folk to the U.S. to work as guest workers and when they were no longer profitable, tried to send them back like criminals.
But no more! We will fight for basic human rights—like having access to education and healthcare because we remember when we were not good enough to be educated among white people. When we won that battle, they tried to require us to provide proof of citizenship just to go to school or the doctor—but we resisted and we won.
We are a flourishing, vibrant community that is now, more than ever, reclaiming our own narrative. To be Latinx, especially for millennials, means to have an understanding of ourselves on a global perspective and that we lead intersectional lives with multiple identities.
This month is about learning how to love ourselves despite history’s attempt to erase us. To understand that my language is beautiful, my skin color is beautiful, who I choose to love is beautiful, my physical abilities do not make me less of a person, and the humble work my family provides is the backbone of this country. That is what Latinx Heritage Month means to me.
“Hispanic” is a word created without the consent of those whom it would later represent. Considering ourselves Latinx is one of many ways my community has been resisting for years to being spoken for. We are no longer thankful for just the crumbs this government gives us—we speak out and resist. We realize that what is being celebrated during this month is the exploitation of our blood, our sweat, and our tears that is now being sold for the enrichment of the country. We have survived the abuse of our labor and the dehumanization of our communities from the top down.
This Latinex month is dedicated to the intersectionality that queer folks like myself represent. We know that often times the white LGBTQ+ movements fall short on marriage equality and gender pronouns without challenging racism and the power structure that makes up America. They have failed to honor our diversity as LGBTQ+ people of color.
The white movement will denounce the killing of gays abroad but then will sit quietly as their country sends queer people back to places that are not safe for them. They stay quiet while Trans women are detained in immigration centers, often with the male population, left to face rape, abuse, and torture. It means ugly accusations of the media accusing us of stealing healthcare from the government, even though we put millions in taxes into a system that we will never benefit from—to be forced to use emergency rooms as the only mean of healthcare and later be blamed for the staggering cost.
Most importantly, this month represents the amazing folks that these pressures have created. Just like diamonds, we are forced to be made under pressure—and we shine.
We shine bright like Marco Antonio Firebaugh, who was a pioneer in healthcare for underrepresented communities, and later on brought in State tuition to undocumented students in California. Like Salma Hayek, who made having an accent in the mainstream media acceptable, to later on portray characters like Beatriz in Beatriz at dinner showing the reality that Latinx folks face in a white-dominated culture. Like Jorge Ramos, who often times has to fact check individuals on the lies they try to tell about our community, knowing his integrity as a journalist will always be questioned by others for standing up to this unfounded rhetoric. Like Bamby Salcedo, who is a pioneer in the Trans rights movement that brings our community to light and holds us accountable for showing up for all, not just some.
All shine bright within their own merit but are apart of a Latinx resistance that is growing, getting stronger and is taking the reins of its own destiny. Let’s us remember our victories, our hardships, and actively work to break down the borders that are trying to be built to keep us down.
Jose Guevara is a DACA recipient and student organizer.