A look at Hispanic Heritage Month

Music Tech teacher Ms. Burgos gives some insight into Puerto Rico


Mr. Schmerler

Ms. Burgos, Music Technology teacher at the Prep, shows her support for Puerto Rico.

Passaic Prep commemorated one of its most familiar celebrations with Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a festivity that celebrates the contributions of American ancestors from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America who have brought into this country their history, heritage and culture. 

Ms. Burgos, who teaches Music Technology here at the Prep, talked about Hispanic heritage — her parents are from Puerto Rico.

“[This is] a community that has loving people, affectionate people, loud people, and most certainly fun people,” she said. “We look out for each other because we are family-oriented.” 

The reason why it starts Sept. 15 is because that is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition to the 30-day celebration, Mexico celebrated its independence on Sept. 16 and Chile on Sept. 18. Then Columbus Day or the Day of Race, which commemorates the first encounters of Europeans and Native Americans, takes place on Oct. 12. 

… Hispanic Heritage Month and Black History Month should be celebrated year-round, because all races should be celebrated not just a specific time of the year, for our uniqueness, our qualities and our strengths.”

— Ms. Burgos

As a Hispanic island, Puerto Rico has its own tastes and lifestyle.

“My family comes from Puerto Rico,” Ms. Burgos said. “I was born here in Passaic but I will go there every year for the summer since I was born. Now as an adult, I still do. My parents live there right now. What I like about Puerto Rico is everything from the people, nature, environment, the freedom, the lifestyle, the music, and the food. It’s like I wish I could live there right now.”

Puerto Rico is a unique island, she added.

“What makes it unique is, I would say is that the people of the island are the sweetest, most giving and humble people,” she said. “Every time I go there, it’s like I want to stay there.”

Like  many Hispanic islands, Puerto Rico has its fears and occasional downfalls, she said. 

“I fear that we will never become an independent island,” Ms. Burgos said. “I would like for Puerto Rico to no longer be a Commonwealth of the United States.”

She said that during the hurricane of 2017, Hurricane Maria, she sent a lot of packages of food, clothes, batteries, and necessities to her family and everyone else who was in need.

Ms. Burgos answered the question: How can somebody coming from a Hispanic background interpret the celebration of their ancestors? 

“We are united, we are strong, and we are important,” she said. “What I think is that Hispanic Heritage Month and Black History Month should be celebrated year-round, because all races should be celebrated not just a specific time of the year, for our uniqueness, our qualities and our strengths.” 

The history of Hispanic Heritage Month has deep roots in the U.S., beginning in 1968. It always began in the fall of each year in those times. Originally, the celebration was not a month long, it was only a week. President Lyndon Johnson first approved it as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 and was expanded to a full month after President Ronald Reagan approved in 1988, making it 20 years in the making of Hispanic Heritage Month. Finally, Hispanic Heritage Month was officially enacted into law on Aug. 17 of that same year. 

Ms. Burgos said that pride comes to mind when she hears the word “Hispanic.”

“Because as a minority we were able to accomplish a lot of things coming from here,” she said. “Starting from nothing and over time to building legacies for our children, whether it’s financial legacies, education legacies and moral legacies.”

The Music Technology Pathway teacher said she would like to develop a connection to her home country through music.

“Let me tell you, my father is a musician in the Puerto Rican culture,” she said. “Music is an essential part of every celebration and every recreational activity. When I was little, I had a lot of opportunities from playing instruments/music to learning about the different styles of it. It was accessible to me. 

“So, I wanted to try to give that experience to my students, making music accessible to them, all the time, all the time and all the time.”

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we get to appreciate those ancestors who come from a Hispanic background and their contributions to our country’s history, heritage and culture. Thanks to them, we are able to live here in Passaic as a diverse community and celebrate each other. Also, we get to see the representation of people who come from a Hispanic background and how they celebrate their communities and contributions.