This week Huffington Post Latino Voices asked me to answer the question:
"Which is the one Latino cultural trait you most want to see preserved and handed down to future generations?"
My answer exists in dialogue with those of six other "prominent Latino thinkers and doers" who offer our perspective, a vista or window into who we believe Americans of predominantly Latin American descent are in 2011, at the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. Like a photo album, our snapshots reflect the breadth and depth of our backgrounds, experiences, and cultural legacies. What emerges is a more accurate representation of a group of people who, due to the current political climate, has been reduced to caricatures and stereotypes:
Latinos as free-loading criminals.
Latinas as Anchor Baby Mamas.
To be clear, Hispanic Heritage Month is not a separatist celebration, but one that affirms the U.S. which accepts diverse groups of immigrants whose contributions are making America stronger.
What I believe is the most important cultural trait to pass down to future generations is language--the gatekeeper of history, culture, memory, and power.
Language is foundational to creating our present, and more crucially to contributing to this nation's brighter future.
"Mastering Your Origins"
"Striving to speak Spanish (and English) grammatically correct everyday is the passageway to a rich culture and history which has contributed greatly to Western Civilization. It is not a coincidence that the first grammar of a Romance language--Antonio de Nebrija's Gramática de la lengua castellana--is contemporary with the political unification of Spain into Europe's first nation state. Language and power are intrinsically and inevitably interwoven. Don Quijote says, "Yo sé quién soy/I know who I am." Mastering your origins is foundational to where you are headed. It also serves as a powerful weapon when along the way, you must defend yourself, your family, your people from xenophobia and ignorance."
Click here to read and view the remaining six Vistas and accompanying slideshow.