Updated: Oct 1, 2020
Hispanic (LatinX) Heritage Month is an important celebration of OUR PEOPLE, FOR ALL PEOPLE, that highlights and celebrates our multiple LatinX positionalities and intersectionalities while also showcasing our beautiful diversity in thought, language, food, music, art, culture, history, and more importantly OUR plight here in the U.S. This celebration started in 1968 as "Hispanic Heritage Week" under President Lyndon B. Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 for 30-days. I remember the day it was expanded to a month-long celebration like it was yesterday.
My parents, in the late 70s, had already been celebrating and sharing our culture and traditions with local communities and schools in our rural Ohio town through a nonprofit organization they help start named the Hispanic Awareness Organization (HAO). HAO would be one of many catalysts that assisted nationally to expand the celebration from only one week to a month of activities and presentations all over town that my parents made sure that we invited all those we knew to participate. See my parents and their friends were afraid that if people didn't know who we are, what we stand for, or our history, that they would be fearful of us, discriminate against us, and treat us differently because we are not a monolingual or homogeneous population as the dominant culture we found ourselves living amongst in Northwest Ohio. Many of my parent's close friends, with me in tow, would even travel to Columbus and Washington DC to advocate on how important it is for students and community members to get to know and understand the BROWN skin LatinX experience.
And, of course, Hispanic (LatinX) Heritage month is like no other celebratory months because it starts on September 15 and goes until October 15, the reason being is because September 15 marks the independence anniversary of five countries: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, followed by Mexico's Independence Day on September 16 and Chile's on September 18. For my parents and all the other LatinX families out there that were a part of this movement and that have benefitted from this celebration by learning more about the LatinX community, and what and how they can participate during this month-long celebration is and was just the start of saying...
"Hello Gringos, we are here in the U.S. too and want, deserve, and demand to also be recognized and given a month to celebrate."
Therefore, although this celebration is only a month it is important to me because it gives everyone the opportunity to stop, reflect, research, read, write, attend, or just get flooded with LatinX information, and most importantly it motivates me to continue to advocate for the inclusion of LatinX history, culture, art, literature, etc in our everyday lives and curriculums because remember that it went from 1-week to 1-month, and just maybe one day it can be incorporated into our daily lives, curriculums, and history books acknowledging who and what the LatinX community has done and continues to do for our country and local communities EVERYDAY!
My advice to LatinX Women looking to get into a leadership role is to first define what being in leadership roles means to you? What makes a leader, in your mind, a leader? And, what markers will tell you that you have finally made it there? Moreover, VISUALIZE THIS? A person I admire as a true leader once told me, "if you can see (visualize) it, it can and will be!" And, so true and right she was, it's like your GPS road map to true success, happiness, and becoming a great leader. This leads me to my other piece of advice, search out people that you love and that are doing, saying, writing, speaking, and accomplishing things you love or want to do and be. We are like seeds, we need people to assist us (water us), through positive, uplifting, and unconditional love, so LOOK FOR A MENTOR, a friend, a guide! Don't be afraid to ask people to mentor, guide, or to be your friend in helping you in your development. And, don't get offended if someone sees the potential in you and wants to mentor you. Furthermore, your stuck and don't know who or where to turn for this assistance, you can join a local, national, and or international organization(s) that are filled with people doing, saying, and moving in the direction that you want to go, however, DON'T OVERCOMMIT! Please STAY FOCUSED! Always remember your true calling and purpose, and above all HAVE FUN, have LOTS of FUN & LOVE every minute of WHAT YOU DO! Don't be afraid to fall down, to get hurt, get talked about, just keep moving towards your goals no matter how long it seems to take, cost, or hurt. And, write down (a record) in your calendar or in a diary what you are doing and where you are going. Cross off the things you have accomplished, and CELEBRATE each and every accomplishment and or task completed. Moreover, never stop reading or learning! Begin with educating yourself about who and where you came from, and then move on to helping others.
NEVER forget where you came from and don't ever be a "sell-out" or "rubber stamper." Stay true to yourself and don't be a follower, a follower can never be a leader! So, look within yourself, discard the negative, the ugly, and the trying to bring others down so you can move up- the leaders that thought being hard, unapproachable, mean, ugly, degrading, and better than their subordinates are not true leaders. Good leaders look at it through the lens of what can I do for others, collaboratively and educatively, they are not power-tripping, doing it for prestige, or name recognition!
Staying empowered can be a task in a capitalistic world. I stay empowered by involving myself in things that make me and others happy. Empowerment for me comes from within, so reading, writing, being with like-minded people, and always being the student empowers me.
My idol is my mother! Why? Because she conceived me at age 16, went on to get her GED, then Bachelors in Social Work, was heavily involved in social justice issues and politics, was one of the first Latinas to run for public office in the small rural community where I was raised, and supported me and supports all women (especially women of color) to achieve and lead. My mother always exposed me to those less fortunate, not to be better, but show how fragile life is and how we are cast at birth for much of our life's outcomes, but it is up to us to make something out of what we were given, and not to just benefit ourselves, or our nuclear family, but for the greater good of society-at-large. And, that is why my mother is my idol! She has overcome obstacles that I can never even imagine and sheltered me from them through her love and mentorship... forever my mother, Laura Alvarado, will be my Latina Idol.
About Linda Alvarado-Arce. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), with a major in Social Work, a Master’s in Education (M.Ed.), and is A.B.D. (All But her Dissertation) away from her Ph.D. majoring in Educational Foundations and Leadership, with a minor in Gifted Education and specializing in Educational Leadership, Theory, Social Foundations, Qualitative Research and Design, Latinx studies, Parent and Community Involvement, Social Justice, Adult Development, Peace and Human Rights Education, and Educational Psychology from the Judith Herb College of Education at The University of Toledo. Linda is an international board member of the International Sanctuary Declaration Campaign Committee, the Fort Erie Buffalo Windsor Detroit Border Coalition, Canadian Border Network, on the National Council for the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR)- USA, the national organization Educational Leaders of Color (EdLOC), and locally a member of La Cooperativa, VP of Avance Latinx Academico Society (ALAS) at Escuela SMART, VP of the Lucas County Latino/Hispanic Democratic Caucus, and President of the Hispanic Awareness Organization (HAO). Linda has written and published numerous scholarly articles i.e. for the Journal of Latinos in Education (JLE) and in the International Guide to Student Achievement textbook through Routledge, among also teaching at the university level and researching the experiences of local Latinx Mexican families with mixed-status children in Northwest Ohio. Linda, moreover, volunteers with others in assisting asylum-seekers traveling through Toledo Ohio’s Greyhound bus station to their final destination in the U.S. or Canada and any other families in need locally or abroad. She was the last Executive Director of the Board of Community Relations (BCR) & the Better Community Relations (BCR) Board for the City of Toledo (OH) where she worked under the direction of four (4) Mayors, City Council, County Commissioners, community organizations, Block Watch organizations, businesses, faith-based organizations, unions, community development corporations, public and private schools, youth programs, and a twenty-six member board charged with promoting, empowering, and supporting citizens and neighborhoods to create social justice, equal opportunities, and a harmonious environment among the neighborhood groups and public institutions. Moreover, her position intervened in conflicts and disputes that ranged from neighbor disputes to community disputes with the City government by providing investigation, facilitation, and mediation services. She is a certified mediator, grant writer, and the owner of the only feminist mobile bookstore in the U.S.- People Called Women (PCW), LLC. She is a lifelong student who loves to learn new things such a white water kayaking and traveling, a mother of four children, two step-children, a proud wife, sister, aunt, daughter, friend, and a grandmother to an adorable little girl named after my mother, "Laura." She believes that if we all work together, across borders, and united, that peace and prosperity will triumph.