All I want for Hispanic Heritage Month is respect… y nada más.

By Ani Palacios McBride (

Forget the proclamations, the speeches, the month-full of Latino movies. I don’t need to see one more person in Mexican costume, or hear politicians and corporate executives refer to Latinos as their “amigos”. Please don’t speak Spanish masticado only when it is convenient to your campaign; and stop sending mixed signals about your love/hate relationship with the Hispanic community.

Yes, it is Hispanic Heritage Month. The one month a year when everything is Hispanic and people get a quick review of the most palatable things of our culture.  Who doesn’t like nachos? What’s not to like about a nice fiesta? Ceviche, anyone? Those are the easy to do things in everyone’s list. Check, check… and check!!!

But, whenever it’s time to talk about real issues everyone gets uptight and leaves.

I see a double-standard here. Amigos por conveniencia es la cosa.

We (and they, the politicians, the corporate rulers) have memorized the facts. The good ones are used for certain occasions and the bad ones for others.

For instance, “Latinos are important, at more than 50 million; this is the largest fastest growing community… we need Latinos… (ehem, to pick up our crops, build our houses, clean up our messes…”

How come we are never mentioned together with the word “professional” is a mystery and probably has to do with our own internal branding.

Okay. So there’s an example, and believe or not, that was the “good” one.

Here comes the bad:  “But, wait, aren’t you all the undocumented, uneducated people who are stealing American jobs? Pa’ fuera.”

And so goes this very strange dialogue all year-long. The exception comes between September 15 and October 15. That’s when we get our special month all to ourselves and everyone has to “like” us.

Yay Latinos. Hooray for us. When this month comes around, I almost can hear people saying: “Let’s give them a distraction, something to feel good about between September and October of each year.”

But when it comes the time to dedicate resources and empower Latinos to create businesses, get to the top of the corporate ladder, have representation or hold public office. When is time to talk serious, deeply important business, the papel picado and la cerveza vanish.

And if it’s about making tough choices and putting on los pantalones on topics such as comprehensive immigration reform or the Dream Act… it’s “Adios Amigo… and remember: when the election cycle comes along, I’ll be back to string you around with empty promises and palabras, palabras, palabras… okay?”

But there is one thing to celebrate this Hispanic Heritage Month, and that is the fact that Latinos are now seriously realizing that smoke and mirrors, hand waving, nice speeches, and little celebrations such as HHM, mean nothing without true respect. We know and understand that without leaders this community will continue to be referred to as “illegals”, “Not Americans”, “Aliens”, the “help”… and we will continue to be treated as second-class citizens. We now can see through the people that court us every once in a while, when it’s convenient. And we are done with that.

We pay our taxes and contribute. We are productive and innovative. We are resourceful and creative. We are the future of this country and we will have a Latino president some day not so far away… and, who knows, it may be something like my fictional presidente,Plumbago Torres.

And that’s why all I want for Hispanic Heritage Month is respect… y nada más…


Categories: NGLC Conference

1 reply

  1. I might have shared this here before, but if so, it bears repeating. First, a bit of background. For over 30 years I’ve been writing a series of novels that I’m starting to publish now, in spite of being shunted aside and ignored by NY agents and publishing houses. While staying at a B & B in Brookline MA halfway through my literary journey, I expressed frustration that people kept saying how “ambitious” and “competent” my work was–while saying “not for us.” The lady who owned that B & B informed me that I would NEVER interest any of the Powers that Be (Were, now, in a large part) in novels that used Mexicans as the main characters. Doing it myself is more rewarding than having someone else judge my work by mediocre standards and blockbuster expectations.

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