Spanish/Hispanic/Latinx Day… Whose Day?

Frida Kahlo & Chavela Vargas, universal Mexican painter and singer

Today is bittersweet for so many. For some people in Spain, October 12 is a day to celebrate to dust off their military paraphernalia and march up and down wide avenues in Madrid while thousands of people flag national symbols and hum the anthem. All the political parties are expected to attend the event (including the Spanish Monarchy) and there is even some minutes of fame, as Andy Warhol would predict, for a goat in spearheading the march with a specific military unit, the Legionnaires.

Having said that, my knowledge of this historical moment stops here, for I am part of the other half who believes by now, in 2020, there should be already a reformulation of what this date entails. Due to global pandemic, the parade has been cancelled this year. To be truthful, I would bet that more people whined over the cancellation of the summer’s Gay Pride celebration; which exemplifies, on the one hand, the level of engagement to the military parade as opposed to other social events and, on the other, the economic impact along with international resonance of them compared.

Pablo Neruda, Chilean politician and poet, awarded Literature Nobel Prize in 1971

Hispanic Day was originally marked in 1892 after Cristobal Columbus´s arrival to the Americas in October 12, 1492. From thereon, this date was incorporated into Spanish imaginary’s to allegedly represent societal unity. By the creation of the Spanish 1978 Constitution after over 40 years of dictatorship, it briefly merged with Spanish National Day, but the latter got prioritized in detriment of the primary feeling of Latinidad. It goes without saying, that the Iberian peninsula and Latin America share a strong sociocultural bonding that nonetheless has been troubled by centuries of colonialism and post-colonialism.

Latinidad is an umbrella term to identify those who share cultural values across continents, with the Spanish language being one of the most recognizable markers of this complex and diverse ethnic identity. Lately, the narrative has been troubled by the Black and Indigenous communities, for they too take part in this pan-identity, and yet they are ever hardly recognized within it. That per se is a debate that would need a whole new post…

Back to Hispanic Day , and some might say that October 12 is not precisely a joyous day to be celebrated, but rather a remembrance of how power differential and potential acculturation works. In the times of #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo and an increasing awareness on social issues, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Argentina or the US would celebrate Día de la Raza, Día del encuentro entre dos mundos, Día del respeto a la diversidad cultural and Columbus Day respectively.

Penélope Cruz & Pedro Almodóvar, Oscar winning Spanish actress and film director

That said, notice that each country has tailored the celebration to different internal demands, which adds up controversy in the US for not having done so just yet. All in all, throughout Latin America this day centres Indigenous communities and ethnic diversity, whereas in Spain is mostly its national day. Coming from the linguistic field myself, I am aware that socio-ethnic collaboration is worked through cultural and linguistic organizations such as Instituto Cervantes and the Real Academia Española.

Although it has improved after decades of social progress, Spanish cultural and linguistic organizations are oftentimes said to be normative, which needs to be challenged in acknowledging the diversity of Hispanic, Latino or whatever identity you may be comfortable with. Personally speaking, and being conscious of the need to unpack colonization by certain structural narratives along with the privilege I carry within those, I believe the beauty of our pan-Latino identity resides in a certain chaotic conviviality where Spanish language and ethnicity are an intertwined cross-roads of multiple identities even contradictory at times.

As the great Gloria Anzaldúa once said: Soy mi lengua / I am my language (Anzaldúa, G. (1987). Borderlands: la frontera). And that is a beautiful statement that resonates with me, for it shows how polyhedral yet universal can get the sentiment of community.

Written by Santi, our long term ESC Volunteer

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