Hispanic Heritage Month and the importance of diversity

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brandon M. Shuman
  • 911th Airlift Wing

PITTSBURGH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AIR RESERVE STATION, Pa. – Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 each year. This observance celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. Your first thought however, might be that it’s rather strange that it starts and ends in the middle of each month, and of course, there’s a good reason for that.


Sept. 15 is the anniversary of Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua's independence. Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18 respectively. There are several reasons for people to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.


“I don’t personally celebrate it, but I do appreciate the meaning of it, because you're celebrating the diversity,” said Master Sgt. Jose Gonzalez, 911th Force Support Squadron personnel assistant manager. “The Hispanic population is very broad, somebody from Mexico has a whole different experience as somebody from Argentina or somebody that comes from the Caribbean.”


Gonzalez was born abroad in Venezuela and came to America to learn English after he finished high school. While learning the language, Gonzalez was asked to play sports for his university and even earned a scholarship for it. He met his wife in college; she joined the Air Force after she finished her education, and the lifestyle inspired Gonzalez to join as well. His children and wife were all born in the United States, but Gonzalez likes to cook Venezuelan food occasionally to try to keep his children connected with their Venezuelan heritage, he said.


“Sometimes people say oh, it’s Hispanic Heritage Month so let’s go eat Mexican food,” said Gonzalez. “Well why Mexican food? Why can’t we go eat Cuban food or Spanish food, or something like that?”


Though some Hispanic cultures are more familiar to Americans than others, the observance helps to recognize the diversity and ethnicities in the Hispanic population, said Gonzalez.


“It's not all about just Mexican food or just Puerto Rican [culture] you know, I mean that's what we know here,” said Gonzalez. “That's why when you don't have that much diversity that becomes what you know, which is why that’s what most people tend to do.”


Gonzalez feels that the celebration can help to educate people on the heritage of Hispanic peoples.


“Hispanic, to me, is more of a broad term, you’re including everybody,” he said. “As long as you're within the Spanish speaking population, that is, to me, Hispanic. When you’re talking about Spanish that’s usually related more towards people who are from Spain and the Latino part is more related to Latin America, your Caribbean people and South Americans.”


Diversity can help overcome obstacles and make people stronger, said Gonzalez. It allows people to see how other people from different backgrounds tackle problems and how they find solutions to those problems. America is a melting pot of different cultures and ideals, which is a part of what makes it so great, he said.


“Diversity isn’t just for the Air Force, I believe it should be everywhere,” said Gonzalez. “I think it is very important for people to understand everybody else, and I think diversity will force you to understand the difference between other cultures and ethnicities. It’s educational and it enriches your mind.”