Blog Post By Jona Elwell

Viva los Árboles – Hispanic Heritage Month

Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. Why September 15? It’s the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively.

Advocates Past and Present

The co-founder of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH), Berta Cáceres had been a thorn in the side of her government and big corporations for years. She had taken on illegal loggers and plantation owners who had threatened her community. In 2015, she was lauded the prestigious Goldman environmental prize for her work protesting against the construction of a hydroelectric dam.

Through self-sacrifice, a commitment to nonviolence, and their spirituality, César Chávez and Dolores Huerta changed a nation. Together they founded the farm worker movement, fought against agribusiness, and organized thousands of laborers so they could earn a living wage and have just working conditions. In 1962, they launched the National Farm Workers Association, which preceded the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) union.

Taking environmental activism to the courts, Adrianna Quintero cultivates partnerships with diverse communities nationwide in support of environmental advocacy efforts. A leading expert in diverse partnerships and an NRDC senior attorney, she initiated NRDC’s Latino outreach efforts and is the co-founder/director of Voces Verdes, a national coalition that connects Latino businesses, community leaders, and organizational partners with government decision-makers calling for action on climate change and clean energy.

Connect with Hispanic Heritage in the United States

Dive into the trials and tribulations of Chávez’s efforts in the farm worker movement at the César E. Chávez National Monument, or explore one of the dozens of National Monuments and Parks centered around Hispanic Heritage in the U.S. including Fort Matanzas in Florida, where Europeans fought to control the New World, or Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, where thousands of people travelled through Mexico and Southern California to settle in Northern California (and ‘discover’ the redwoods!).

Locally, get to know your U.S. Forest Service employees including Helen Cortez, Magaly Figueroa, or David Flores at one of the 154 National Forests! Cortez summed up the importance of Hispanic Heritage throughout our National Parks and Forests with this thought, “For many Latino families, Hispanic Heritage Month is about recognizing our collective contributions and efforts as well as educating those around the world who might not know much about our culture and heritage. This celebration also serves as a great opportunity to delve deeper into Latin American history and share knowledge about the many important roles that Latin Americans have played in U.S. history in particular, and how they continue to help shape our American experience.”

This month, as the nation celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s important that we recognize the positive and significant contributions of Latino Americans. But these contributions are omnipresent and should be celebrated every day, including through our national parks, monuments, and landmarks.

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