Hispanic Heritage Month, observed from September 15th to October 15th, is a time of vibrant celebration and reflection on the rich cultural diversity of the Hispanic and Latino communities in the United States. A word that comes to mind during these celebrations is “Latinidad,” the significance for us (Latinos) and the difficulty to explain it. Latinidad is a term that encapsulates the shared cultural identity, values, and experiences that bind us as a dynamic and ever-growing community.
“Latinidad, often translated as “Latino-ness” or “Latina-ness,” is a complex and evolving term that encompasses the cultural, linguistic, and historical ties that bind people of Latin American descent, regardless of their specific country of origin. It embraces the shared experiences, traditions, and values that connect individuals within the broader Hispanic community. Latinidad promotes a sense of belonging and unity among Latinos, fostering a collective identity that transcends national borders.” (Felix Padilla, 1985)
As a pastor in a congregation with people from different parts of Latin America and Europe, it was very important to allow the space for the different celebrations during this month; for the Latine community these events take on a patriotic nature (the independence of most Latin American countries is in the months of July-September). If you congregation is mostly from Mexico (Independence Day September 16) or Central America (Independence Day September 15) it is very common to be asked to help organize a festival that can last 1-3 days or a couple of weekends. The folkloric ballet, mariachis, matachines (ritual dancers), regional food, loteria and other games are included into the local festivities. This is a very good opportunity to get to know the community around your church, also get to know the extended family of the congregation and invite them to come and join, excellent opportunity for evangelism and outreach. On my particular context, one year I hired a new office assistant, she had one of the largest families I have ever met, and for the September 16th festival I needed extra volunteers. This lady called her family, overnight I had 20 extra volunteers to help out, a month later I had 20 new families in my church; I celebrated, baptisms, first communions, confirmations, quinceañeras, weddings, funerals, 3-year old presentations, house blessings, new born presentations for all these families for most of my ministry. I’m not longer at this congregation but now and then I bumped into some of them at the mall or at the movies. God’s spirit is always on the move, inspiring us to continue to bring hope to those in need and invite those who want to feel accepted and needed.