(Department of Defense poster celebrating Hispanic Heritage)
Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations began this week with a chorus of local, national and even other-worldly figures participating in some of the hundreds of inaugural events held across the country. The September 15th to October 15th celebrations began thanks to Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, who had originally called for “Hispanic Heritage Week” (Republican Ronald Reagan made it a month-long celebration).
While Johnson was signing into law the official celebration of Latinos in 1968, he also signed documents authorizing the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program or “COINTELPRO” to give another big government abrazo (embrace) to the growing chorus of dissident Latino voices. Cesar Chavez, student groups, the Brown Berets, the Young Lords and those who yelled “Viva!” during the “Walkout” in Los Angeles were but a few of those greeted by COINTELPRO during that first year of Hispanic Heritage. Viva!
Not to be outdone during this year’s celebration, Walmart, whose 154,000 Latino employees make it the country’s largest single private sector employer of Latinos, announced that it too would sing the praises of “Hispanics” by “incorporating Hispanic product features in categories such as food, home, toys, and health and beauty aids” (NEWSFLASH: PBS superstar and kiddy icon Dora the Explorer will not be shouting her usual “Viva”‘s at this year’s celebrations due to unhealthy levels of toxic chemicals she and Walmart contracted in Chinese factories). The global giant is also celebrating by continuing its efforts to guarantee that its Hispanic workers can proudly yell “Viva!” without the burden of labor rights. Viva!
For his part, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales used the occasion to bid farewell while also celebrating our “founding ideals and our enduring values of faith, family, and freedom”. During a Hispanic Heritage celebration held at Bolling Air Force Base in the District of Colombia, Gonzales dazzled his captive audience of military personnel with stories of his motivations in the good fight, “….every time I see a glimmer of the evil man can do, I see the defenders of liberty, truth, and justice who stand ready to fight it.” The glimmer of Hispanic pride that hung over the military base was especially bright when Gonzales declared, “Over the past two and a half years, I have seen tyranny, dishonesty, corruption and depravity of types I never thought possible” And then, as if embodying the very spirit of (19)68 that inspired Johnson to raise up Hispanics, a choked up Gonzales added, “I have seen things I didn’t know man was incapable of.” Super VIVA! VIVA! VIVA!
And, in keeping with the theme of Hispanic goodness in the service of the nation, President Bush used his proclamation launching Hispanic Heritage to honor Hispanic military service, “In times of great consequence, they have answered the call to defend America as members of our Armed Forces.” Vivisimo!
Lastly, PBS and filmmaker Ken Burns will do their part in the celebrations by launching his epic “War” documentary in the middle of Hispanic Heritage month. Burns, whose hundreds of hours of American history in previous films contained few to no depictions of Latinos, decided to honor the more than 500,000 servicepeople of Hispanic descent who either served, died or were missing in action during WWII by dedicating a full 28 minutes of footage to them in his 15 hour film!
Viva Hispanic Pride! Viva Hispanic Amigos! Viva Hispanic Heritage!