September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. The purpose of this month is to celebrate the accomplishments of Americans with Hispanic and Latino heritage whose ancestors came to the United States from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.
The theme for 2022 is Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation. When we think about inclusivity as related to Hispanic Heritage month, a good place to start is with understanding the terms Hispanic vs. Latino. The terms are often used interchangeably but have different meanings and histories. A simplified explanation is that Hispanic is used to describe people of a Spanish speaking origin while Latino/a/x is used to describe a person of Latin American origin. Thus, a person from Mexico could be described as Hispanic, while someone from Brazil, where Portuguese is spoken, could be described as Latinx.
Within communities of color, terms to describe and categorize groups are fraught with politics and identity questions, creating uncertainty for people outside of the community on what the correct term is. You can default to asking people how they identify to prevent misunderstandings and to learn more about people in your community. I never assume an identity and ask my students and colleagues their preference as a way to show respect for them as individuals with unique backgrounds and experiences. My friend, Ricardo, a very proud Mexican American, scoffs at being called Latino because he feels it erases his family’s heritage and experiences in pursuit of a more politically correct way to group Spanish-speaking people.
Social identifiers are political and personal, knowing and respecting that helps move us towards a more inclusive nation.
As we celebrate the Hispanic and Latino community this month, we must also acknowledge the mental and physical toll COVID-19 continues to have this population: high rates of unemployment, continuing issues with access to medical care, and financial instability are ongoing stressors.
- As a coach, how are you considering these issues when dealing with clients from this population?
- What can you do to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for current and prospective clients?
Learning more about this diverse group, often underrepresented within coaching, increases our cultural competency while cultivating our cultural humility.
Spend time this month, discovering Hispanic and Latino history within your community. Perhaps there’s a museum exhibit you can explore, maybe a new restaurant or even a recipe at home.
The more we learn about different cultures and experiences, the easier it is to discover similarities and connections leading all of us to a sense of belonging in this world.