Student Reflections on Hispanic Heritage Month

Four Heller students offer thoughts about their Hispanic or Latino/a/x heritage and the significance of National Hispanic Heritage Month.

October 08, 2021

Irma Zamarripa wearing mortarboard and cowboy boots
Irma Zamarripa ’21, MPP’23
Irma Zamarripa holding mortarboard with Mexican flag motif

¡Arriba Durango!

Irma Zamarripa ’21, MPP’23 (she/her/ella)

"I was born in Durango, Mexico. From a young age, I enjoyed dancing folklorico with my sister at the annual Hispanic heritage festivals. More recently, I discovered my passion for Frida Kahlo’s art; I enjoy learning about how Kahlo's art reflects aspects of feminism and resistance. Growing up in Texas, I learned to explore another side to my Mexican identity; I am a proud Tex-Mex Latina who loves to listen to artists like Selena Quintanilla and Bobby Pulido– both are artists who popularized cumbias tejanas.

The best part of my culture is the food. I love enchiladas rojas al estilo Duranguense. Unlike traditional enchiladas, THESE enchiladas are very sweet and spicy- just like me, a person who loves to give back but is not afraid to show up in spaces as a proud, first-generation Mexican-American.

A recent graduate from Brandeis University, I was inspired to pay a tribute to my ancestors and family. The pictures represent aspects of my culture- the boots for my Tex-Mex identity, the red attire for my vibrant personality, and the graduation cap with the Mexican flag that includes handcrafted monarch butterflies to convey my story as an immigrant in this nation too!"

Madeline Cahue
Madeline Cahue, MA SID'22

The Only Other

Madeline Cahue, MA SID’22

"Often, I have been the only woman, the only Latina, the only first-genner, the only, the only, the only. Being the only one amidst a dominating culture, can be very isolating at times. It can feel lonely and frustrating, and it often feels like you must bear all the weight on your tired, scarred shoulders.

People may turn to you hoping you can give a response on behalf of millions of people who check the same boxes as you do. You are often used for a photo-op to provide a narrative of diversity. And you may even be the reason someone gives to prove they are not racist or sexist. Sometimes you don’t notice or feel the effects of being the only other in a space. You don’t feel it until something sparks your attention and reminds you of every reason you don’t belong or stand out – and then you really feel it. This is what it can be like to be the only other in a homogenous space."

Armando Vizcardo

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

Armando Vizcardo, MPP'23 (he/him o, él/ellos)

"For me, Hispanic Heritage Month means reflecting on the contributions and accomplishments of our diverse Latino/a/x/e communities as well as acknowledging that there’s still much more work to be done to bring about an inclusive society for all.

I am very proud of my Peruvian roots and to have grown up in a Spanglish-speaking household eating delicious lomo saltado, arroz con pollo, and ceviche. My family settled in Berkshire County, Massachusetts in the early 2000’s and I’ve been living in the United States for most of my life. Although I grew up in a small rural town in New England, I was fortunate to have been able to celebrate our traditions growing up in the States – my family and our tiny yet modest ‘Hispanic/Latino’ community of largely Mexican and South American families continue to celebrate and be engaged in our yearly cultural traditions like the Santa Rosa de Lima, Festival Latino of the Berkshires, and El Señor de los Milagros celebrations.

It’s important to also recognize that ‘Hispanic/Latino’ is not a monolithic term – that our backgrounds, upbringings, languages, customs, traditions, and cultures are all different and unique in their own way. And it’s just as critical to acknowledge that Hispanic Heritage Month and the history of Latinos/as/x/e is more than a monthly celebration – just like the history of indigenous, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and other people of color who have contributed greatly to the development of the American and global human experiment."

Vianny Rodriguez

Puzzle Pieces

Vianny Rodriguez, MPP'23 (she/her/ella)

"I had always had the privilege of being surrounded by aspects of my culture, a smooth blend of El Salvadorian and Dominican pieces that fit perfectly into the bigger puzzle that makes up my identity. Even though I was raised in the United States, mi mamá had put a great importance on sharing her culture and the pride she has for her roots.

There are the tangible aspects like the food: pupusas, elote loco, los tres golpes, maizena and some Salvadorian-Dominican fusion dishes of her own creation. Learning to dance to bachata, merengue, and cumbia are tied to happy memories of dancing late into the night in celebration with my large diverse family to a mix of Latin music. My Spanglish – a byproduct of my mom’s desire for me to learn English to have better opportunities in the U.S. – never felt like an obstacle in connecting with family domestic and abroad, just another thing that made me me.

Then there are the intangible aspects of my culture she imparted on me such as our resiliency, our creativity, our supportive community, and our collective strength. Latino/a/x/e/Hispanic folks are so beautifully diverse and each person comes with their own unique stories and background and this Hispanic Heritage Month – and every day beyond that – should be a continuous celebration of those differences and all the things that contribute to who we are, as individuals and together."