COLUMBIA, S.C. — A local organization is using the extra attention brought by Hispanic Heritage Month to introduce more people to the culture and traditions of Hispanic and Latino culture. It's also using the opportunity to teach the community more about itself.
Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 marks Hispanic Heritage Month - a time that has special meaning for many. To celebrate, the South Carolina Commission For Minority Affairs (SCCMA) launched a social media campaign.
Every day on Facebook, the agency is sharing parts of cultures and traditions in Hispanic communities that normally aren't seen or talked about very much.
"We have to celebrate our culture every day of the year. This is especially important during this month because this is when more people are paying attention," said Ivan Segura, the program manager for the Hispanic and Latino Affairs Division for SCCMA.
Topics include food, music, historical figures, and yearly festivities from all Latin American countries.
"We are placing a special emphasis on Afro-Latinos and indigenous communities for our Hispanic Latino community," said Segura. "We're doing this because we believe it's important to represent everybody. We often notice that some of our people are not represented."
In the campaign, the commission is aiming to educate everyone - including the Hispanic community.
For example, Segura said we may always hear about the same pieces of history from the Mexican culture this month. So the commission wants to take things a step further by sharing other parts of the culture and history.
"If we get somebody from Paraguay, what about music from Paraguay? What about if it's indigenous music from the people from Paraguay? If we go to Brazil, what about if we talk about something from the Brazilian culture that we are usually not exposed to?" said Segura. "Let's talk about something new from Mexico, something we haven't heard before. The hope is that there may even be some Mexicans that are gonna say, 'I didn't know our one and only president from an indigenous background is Benito Juarez!'"
The purpose of a deeper education, he explained, will make a difference.
"Education is very important because it helps us to get rid of ignorance. Ignorance is what sometimes fuels some of the stereotypes, some of the stigmas, and some discrimination," said Segura. "The more we show our friends, our community, our city, and our state the cultural traditions of where we come from, the more we're going to understand that we're all more alike than different."
At the end of October, the first-ever Latinx Student Summit will be held, bringing together all Latino students in the state at the University of South Carolina Upstate's Centro Latino. For now, there is limited attendance due to COVID, but there will be opportunities for people to attend via Zoom. The event is geared toward students and young professionals as part of the commission's P.L.A.C.E. Program, creating pathways for Latinos to advance their careers and education. To register, click here.
If you're interested in attending an event for Hispanic Heritage Month, there's a statewide calendar on the commission's website.
If you're hosting an event that isn't yet featured, you can submit information to Segura by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.