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Hispanic Heritage Month

Beginning in 1988, Hispanic-Latinx Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

Each year, from September 15 to October 15, we celebrate our Hispanic heritage—dates that coincide with national independence days in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile. 

A message from Elda Stanco-Downey, VTCSOM Faculty Member regarding the festivities for Hispanic-Latinx Heritage Month.

Hi Hola amigos e collegas at the Virginia Tech Carillon School of Medicine. I am Dr. Elda Stanco-Downey, PhD in the department of Interprofessionalism. I work with M1, M2, and M4 students in Medical Spanish and it's my pleasure to welcome you and wish you ¡Feliz mes de la herencia hispana! or Happy Hispanic Latino Latina Latinx Heritage Month.

And that is a very very long title. I'm going to tell you a little bit about it. But first of all Hispanic Heritage Month with Latino Latina Latinx in there as well, runs from September 15th through October 15th. Originally this was just a one week celebration and it encompassed September 15th which is independence day for a couple of central american countries as well as September 16th which is Mexican independence day - not cinco de mayo: September 16th. In 1988 the week was extended into a month-long celebration of the history, the culture, and the many contributions and accomplishments of hispanics and latin americans in the United States.

So what's in the name? Hispanic as has been traditionally used in the United States is used to refer to those of us who claim a heritage from Spain, those of us who speak Spanish as an official or mother tongue. Latino Latina Latinx is for those of us who claim or hail from latin america so latino latina as many of you know for the gendered Spanish latino male latina female latinx is a newer term and you can see that x does away with the a and the o thus making it a more inclusive term. Latinx can encompass everyone.

So what is important about Hispanic Latino Latina Latinx Month? Why should we celebrate it? Think of the many contributions of let's start Hamilton, Li Manuel Miranda, the many contributions in the arts, in science, the many contributions in politics from hispanic americans and latino americans.

But what I want to share with you is why it's so important in the name. A pan-ethnic identity like hispanic erases racial and cultural distinctions that many of us hold dear in terms of for example I was born and raised in Venezuela so when somebody calls me hispanic I think no, I'm Venezuelan. But it would be a myriad of countries to be talking about and saying I'm Argentine, I'm Mexican, I'm Salvadorian. So hispanic was a term that was coined to encapsulate all of us but it erases the differences between us as well. It erases racial differences and cultural differences that are key and important. It erases the afro latino experience which is my family as well and it erases the indigenous experience which is my family as well. In other words a lot of us who are hispanics latino latina latinx have a variety and a great number of ethnicities within what we call hispanic or latino american so latinx is a great way to encapsulate it all together.

To give you the example as I mentioned I was born and raised in Venezuela but my father was born in Italy and my grandparents were born in New York. My mother was born in the Andes and though we know that there is definitely Spanish and indigenous mix there. I grew up in a city called Maracaibo near the lake, an oil-rich land, and I went to an American school where all my classmates were from all over the world. It was obvious I would come to the states for college and once I was here it was obvious I would go to grad school and then this is also home. So after grad school I started to work and here we are. And that is the story of so many people around you who identify as hispanic latino latina latinx. It's a story where our roots are in different parts of the world, where it's a transatlantic experience, where there's the afro-latino and the indigenous mixed, and it's a celebration of all the things that make us who we are.

So September 15 through October 15th make sure you enjoy something that allows you to experience our culture I would say our many cultures that make us hispanic latinos. Whether it's delicious food that we all know how good some of the food trucks and restaurants are here in Roanoke, to some good music, down to some good literature, but also think of some good practices in our healthcare fields and how we can do better to make our practices more inclusive. Whether it's knowing a little bit of the Spanish language or learning a little bit about culture and how to make the patients and the people that we work with feel more welcome when they access their health care.

So amigos ¡Feliz mes de la herencia hispana! or Happy Hispanic Latino Latina Latinx Heritage Month. I hope to see you in the hallway soon. Adios! 

Faculty Highlight

Helen Carvalho highlighted as 
IAMSE September Featured Member

Each month International Association of Medical Science Education chooses a member to highlight their academic and professional career, and see how they are making the best of their membership in IAMSE. This month’s featured member is Basic Science Education faculty member Helena Carvalho, PhD.

Student Highlight

Medical student Natalia Sutherland envisions a future in medicine close to her Hispanic roots. Sutherland speaks fluent Spanish. Through the years and with the encouragement of her parents, Sutherland began to fully believe that she could be a Hispanic female and a doctor. She set her sights on medical school. Read Natalia's story.