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Embracing a heritage

Jonathan Melancon, Intern Reporter

From the contributions of religious influencers like Queen Catherine of Aragon, to serving in the U.S. Congress like Alexandria Ocacio-Cortez, hispanic figures have impacted civilizations across the world. As media influence increases, does it portray the true meaning of Hispanic Heritage month?

As Hispanic Heritage Month draws its conclusion, some may wonder what and how to celebrate it. Should we celebrate the culture, the contributions to our own society, or acknowledge the accomplishments of popular Spanish figures? Why not all? 

UNF professor Leidy Johana Barerro is quite familiar with the pride of being a hispanic woman through her own journey of reflection and education. 

Screenshot taken by Jonathan Melancon via Zoom
Screenshot taken by Jonathan Melancon via Zoom

According to Barrero, Hispanic Heritage Month has become more about appropriation than appreciation. With applications such as Amazon Prime and Netflix, she mentions how there are sections that are classified under “Celebrating Hispanic Heritage,” but the content perpetuates more stereotypes than education on Hispanic heritage. She believes that it is because of these stereotypes that people may generalize those who speak the Spanish language as a whole.

Screenshot taken by Jonathan Melancon. Courtesy of Netflix.com
Screenshot taken by Jonathan Melancon. Courtesy of Netflix.com

“They are contributing to the propaganda, but they are not teaching you anything,” Barrero stated. “ It bothers me a lot because it is not that I am latina that I can teach you to salsa dance or because I am Columbian I can teach you how to make guacamole.”

Barrero goes on to say that it is because of these stereotypes that she feels it is her responsibility to guide students to another perspective on how to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. According to Barrero, these stereotypes can be damaging to people’s imaginations of what being Hispanic means. Depending on the environment, some may feel cautious about sharing their own experiences.

“I used to feel embarrassed of many things like my grandfather getting kidnapped in Columbia and for that reason we had to exit Columbia and travel to different countries” Barerro stated. “Now I understand that that’s who I am and this is my story.”

Professor Barrero was featured as a panelist for the Hispanic women of influence that included CEO Maria Isbel Montoya, Vanessa Newton, Esquire, and moderated by News4jax anchor Lorena Inclan. During the meeting, the panelists discussed how they have endured different situations in their professions as women of hispanic descent as well as their pride in being in their respected heritage.

“I have learned that the fact that I’m latina and that I am from Columbia is not an obstacle anymore,” Barrero stated. “They are my superpower.”

Professor Barrero’s story is no different than millions of women of Hispanic descent. Professor Barrero says she no longer lets the stereotypes define her and what she is destined to achieve. In meeting other Hispanic women from different backgrounds, she saw other women like her that proudly display their latina pride and went through similar difficulties in their respected fields. She says she hopes to keep in communication with them.

“We all have different skills but if we can create a group then we can be able to help a lot of people in our community,” Barrero stated.

___

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Embracing a heritage