A different way to observe National Hispanic Month
National Hispanic Heritage Month is being celebrated from September 15 until October 15. There have been a lot of celebrations in the Roanoke Valley from walks to festivals, and acknowledgment of Latino/Hispanic foods and restaurants. WDBJ 7 recently interviewed a community organizer and activist Maria Oceja who suggested an ideal way non-Hispanics can support the community which includes Latinos and Latinx.
Learning the language benefits everyone
Oceja said the Hispanic community would benefit from non-Hispanics learning the language and I agree. Last week I encountered a Mexican American with his arms full so I opened the door for him and he replied "Gracious (Thank you)." It felt really good that I could respond with "De nato" (No problem or you are welcome. I learned this by watching Dora the Explorer with my granddaughter who loved singing the Spanish verse Los amigos see ayudan (Friends help friends) in one of Dora's songs
Oceja said what is really needed is support for translation and that because there I a very diverse local community it's important to learn Spanish or another indigenous language. A meeting was also planned for this past Monday for parents, teachers, and students to gain more understanding regarding the local Hispanic/Latino/Latinx community. RCPS Roanoke City Public Schools has a Spanish hotline that offers support so that language is not a bearer.
Breaking the language barrier
Karina Altamirano is a bilinguist who runs the hotline who says language was a bear for her and her parents. Because of her struggles, she desires to help others not deal with the same issues. She says it's important for Hispanic parents to be engaged, well informed, and be a part of their children's education. Altamirano says she is honored to have her position and be the resource her community can turn to. She adds that the schools are becoming more diverse so the language barrier needs to be addressed.
A 2018 survey indicated that four out of ten Hispanics in America reported bias against them for speaking their native language. They were told to speak only English and or to get out of the country. In Roanoke Casa Latino is working hard to connect the Spanish-speaking community so they can support one another and the effort began during Hispanic Heritage Month in 2021. In August WDBJ 7 reported that RCPS began expanding Spanish courses for educators so efforts are being made to bridge the language barrier.