Empathy is the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes and attempt to see the world through a different lens. No two people look the same, share the same story, or live the same life, but this doesn’t stop human beings from forming connections.
Sept. 15 marked the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage month, but for the Hispanic community, their culture is not confined to a matter of days.
“My Hispanic heritage is everything to me,” sophomore Diversity Board member Mia Ramirez said. “My mom immigrated from Venezuela and my dad immigrated from Colombia. Spanish was my first language and growing up it meant everything to me. I wish everyone around me understood how my culture impacts my life.”
Family, community, music and food serve as the pillars of Hispanic cultures throughout the world. Currently, there are 21 official Spanish speaking countries, but no two countries are the same. “Music connects my family to my culture back home,” Ramirez said. “Chino and Nacho, a popular Venezuelan duo, make Venezuela not seem so far away.”
For others, traditional foods also bring them back to their roots.
“I come from a full Salvadorian background. I’m a first generation immigrant,” junior Diversity Board member Erika Ramirez-Henriquez said. “My family is huge—and loud, but the food and culture brings us together, especially traditional Salvadoran pupusas.”
Sophomore Ximena Perez Silva celebrates her Mexican heritage with traditional dance. “Traditional Aztec and Mayan dance is very important to my family,” Perez said.
“My family gathers in traditional attire to perform at different events in South Omaha. We wear long bright skirts with the cross or Mary on them, and celebrate our history,” Perez said. Maintaining their culture in everything they do, Hispanic-Americans work to make their families proud.
“My immediate family is the only family I have in the United States,” Ramirez said. “To see the rest of my family, I would have to put a lot at risk, including my own safety.” Ramirez, like many other Hispanic-Americans, longs to see her family on a regular basis. “The last time I saw my family in Venezuela and in person was when I was 5 years old,” Ramirez said. “With technology it has been easier to communicate, but with the situation, you never know when the electricity will go out. I hope to reunite with my family someday, but I know I’m making them proud.”
Ramirez-Henriquez, fortunately, has been able to bring several of her family members to the United States. “This year we’ve been able to bring most of our family from El Salvador here because of poor living conditions. My house used to be quiet, but now, it’s always full of energy, and I finally am around the people I’ve been missing my entire life.”
As Ramirez and Ramirez-Henriquez lead diversity efforts in the school community, they hope to give students a look into their lives. “It’s hard to fit everything into a month,” Ramirez-Enriquez said. “But as a Diversity Board, we’re working to make fliers to post throughout the school…my hope is that people will relate our stories with their own and educate themselves.”
Hispanic Heritage Month highlights the importance of being able to put oneself in the place of another. For many, Hispanic Heritage Month will come and go, but for members of Hispanic communities, their celebration never ends.