Willamette High School students Cassandra Martinez and Annette Tapia are incredibly proud of their Hispanic heritage – and they’re not afraid to show it.
At any given time, Martinez, grade 12 and Tapia, grade 11, are both working on several projects to highlight and celebrate Latinx cultures at Willamette, while also working to get health and safety information out to the same group of students. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the two recently shared some of what makes them proud of their individual cultures, as well as the collective Latinx culture at Willamette High School.
“I’ve always been so proud to be Mexican,” Tapia said. “It’s me, it’s what I am, it makes me feel empowered. Looking back at my ancestors and understanding that history makes me proud and makes me feel so happy. I also love being bilingual … and the food.”
Martinez had similar sentiments.
“There is struggle in it,” she said. “But it’s amazing being bilingual and bicultural – it’s a badge of honor and I’ve always felt proud to be a part of it.”
How they show up in their communities
The two women are part of the Willamette High School Latino Unidos group, which works to raise awareness about issues that affect the Latinx community, as well as build relationships and provide space for Latinx students to be themselves at the high school.
“I’m always sort of thinking ‘how can we better support Latinx students?’” Cassandra said. “This last year our community had really low rates of vaccination, and I think it’s important to raise awareness about that so people can get the information they need.”
In addition to tackling big issues like vaccination, Martinez, Tapia and others in Latinos Unidos want to create a welcoming environment for other Latinx students.
“My freshman year there wasn’t a lot of representation for Latinx people,” Tapia said. “With Latino Unidos, we get to have this community space with each other. “I want others to feel like they have a place and feel empowered by their culture.”
Next week, the WHS chapter of Latino Unidos will hold a fiesta in the courtyard and showcase some of their favorite parts of their Hispanic heritage including with music, dancing, decorations, tamales, a piñata and more.
About Hispanic Heritage Month
Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald
The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.