BY ESTHER J. CEPEDA
CHICAGO • Thank goodness Hispanic Heritage Month is almost over. I'm not a fan, because who wants to be paid lip service for 30 days? And it's not even a proper full month, but the latter half of September and the early part of October.
Sure, several mid-September days mark the anniversaries of the independence of multiple Latin American countries, but that seems to have little to do with honoring the "contributions Hispanics have made [to this country] throughout our history," according to this year's official White House proclamation.
Hispanics are nothing less than all-American constructs. Ironically, though, it's a classification that's mostly meaningful to non-Hispanics in the United States.
Check it out: Anywhere in the world my mom goes she is Mexican. My father, a naturalized U.S. citizen who has lived here longer than anywhere else, is, to others, forever from Ecuador. Me? No matter where in the world I go, I'm an American — except for in Latin America where I'm a "gringa," which I'm perfectly comfortable with, thank you very much.
Here in the U.S., it's far more complicated. White, Asian and black non-Hispanics call us Latino, Hispanic, the teeth-grinding "Latin," and sometimes even the cringe-inducing "Spanish." And if they're from California, they might whip out "Chicano" as well.
Generally there's been a years-long (and incredibly tiresome) back-and-forth among people with Latin American heritage about whether they should be identified as "Latino" or "Hispanic." As of last count — the Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project reported on this phenomenon in 2012 — a few of these people (21 percent, including me) were a minority-within-a-minority who identified as "American."