Is there a need for a Hispanic Heritage Month? Do we really need a whole month set aside to recognize the accomplishments of Hispanics? I never thought so. But after reading about Ken Burns much vaunted documentary about World War II, I am beginning to change my mind just a little. Hispanics in general, and Mexican Americans in particular have served in every American war with distinction and honor, surpassing every other ethnic group in the country in garnering medals of honor, yet Burns chose to ignore this not so trivial fact. It’s not that he did not do his homework, because Burns is known for his attention to detail in everything he does. I don’t like using the term minority, but if we are to believe the numbers, then Hispanics are, at least numerically, minorities, and again, if we are to believe the facts and numbers regarding Hispanics in wartime, in terms of courage, bravery, loyalty and patriotism, they are the majority. A pretty hard fact for Ken Burns to ignore.
Not until Mexican American groups threatened to boycott both the documentary and the advertisers did Burns agree to add to his film. Considering the buying power of Hispanics in this country, you know he had no other choice. Under pressure he added 24 minutes of extra footage. Now I really do not have a problem with anyone telling a story from their own perspective. His film, his prerogative , however, just don’t call it a historical documentary, because that is deception, that is half truths and not factual, and I have a problem with anyone passing off lies and half truths as historical fact.
So do we need a Hispanic Heritage Month? I really don’t know. What I do know is that many people have never heard of Cesar Chavez, especially young people, and some of those think he was a boxing champion. I know that most Americans have never heard of Juan Seguin, a Texas patriot of Mexican heritage that fought at the Alamo along with Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, commanding a fighting force made up of Mexicans fighting for a free Texas. What I do know is that most Americans have no clue that Mexican Americans have been in this land for centuries. Hispanics, and again, Mexican Americans in particular have earned their place in America. They have made contributions in every field and will continue to do so. From the food industry, to entertainment , to law enforcement, to politics, and sports, Hispanics have made their mark. Every American, whether they are African American, Asian, Irish, Italian, Native American or Hispanic, should be able to wake up every day ready to face the day with confidence, knowing that they are a viable, contributing part of this country. We should settle for nothing less.