Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines the word “heritage” as the traditions, achievements, and beliefs that are part of the history of a group or nation. Heritage also means the inheritance each generation receives from those who came before. Think about it: It’s an expansive, meaningful, all-encompassing word! It holds many centuries of journeys taken by millions of people.
What does “heritage” mean for us as Hispanics? As we begin Hispanic Heritage Month this week, we have much to be grateful for and proud of. The passionate spirit, big dreams and hard work of our ancestors have given us a strong cultural foundation to build on. We have inherited a rich and vibrant culture. Our music, arts, language, food, family values – they are all expressions of our unique cultural soul as it has shaped and formed over many years.
We are also diverse – with roots and influences fromAfrica, Europe, Asia, and the indigenous people of the Americas. When we begin to unravel the distinct identities of Latinos from different countries of origin, the word “heritage” becomes truly remarkable – it contains multitudes, and the whole of human experience.
But “heritage” isn’t just about looking back at our history. The work of building our communities is far from complete. Our children, and the generations ahead of us, will inherit what we produce for them, just as we inherited from our fathers, mothers, grandfathers, and grandmothers.
As Hispanics, we must take control of our future, and forge our own path. We must lead, toward a pan-ethnic future that is our hope for a greater America. We must take responsibility for our own education. We must support and guide each other, so our culture continues to flourish with new layers of experience and achievement. As we grow into our position as largest and fastest-growing minority group in the United States, we must expect to take on a new role in American society. We can’t allow ourselves to be held back by the educational and economic limitations we have historically faced; instead, we must create opportunities to for our community to excel.
In the faith community, the word “heritage” has one more facet of meaning. During the 2013 Hispanic Heritage Month, I urge you to consider what this term means in the context of your faith. The gospel in Colossians tells us that whatever we do, we should “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.” We know that our heritage comes from the faithfulness of God and His people over the generations. May we see this Hispanic Heritage Month as a challenge to continue faithfully building the inheritance for future Latinos in America.