Usually, when we designate a month, like Women’s History Month or African-American History Month, we start commemorations on the first day of the month. But Hispanic Heritage Month begins Sept. 15, and ends on Oct. 15. The reason? Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua all celebrate the anniversary of their independence on Sept. 15. Independence Day for Mexico is Sept. 16, and Chile’s independence celebration follows, on Sept. 18. Many countries throughout Latin American also celebrate Hispanic heritage on Día de la Raza, (literally, the Day of the Race) Oct. 12, which falls within the U.S. Hispanic Heritage Month.
Olathe’s Hispanic Heritage Month continues in October. As we mentioned last month, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Sonia Nazario will discuss her book, Enrique’s Journey at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 5, at Indian Trail Middle School. Nazario grew up in Argentina and Lenexa, KS. Her book tells the story of a Honduran boy who heads north to find his mother eleven years after she left her starving family to find work in the United States. Enrique represents thousands of children who undertake the perilous trip from Central America across Mexico and, if they’re lucky, across the border into the United States, seeking a mother or father. Enrique’s Journey was named best book of the year by the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Miami Herald and San Antonio Express-News. Recently revised, the book was one of the most frequently selected titles for freshman common reads in 2015-16 academic year. Books will be available for purchase, and Nazario will sign copies after the program.
On Oct. 6, Maria the Mexican joins Betse Ellis for a special Tuesday Tunes with Betse, the Olathe library’s monthly acoustic jam. Maria the Mexican melds mariachi with rock, folk, jazz and blues, yielding a unique sound that has made the band a Kansas City favorite. Bring an instrument and play along, or just listen. We’ll also have a reception for the Latino artists who have exhibited art throughout Olathe for Hispanic Heritage Month.
More music, a fashion show, dancing and a graduation ceremony for Olathe’s second Spanish-language Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) follow a week later, Oct. 13, 7 p.m., at the Heritage Center at the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm, 1200 E. Kansas City Road, Olathe. Trio Atzlan will play and El Grupo Folklorico Atotonilco will display traditional Latin American dress and dance.
Finally, Olathe Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close on Oct. 15, as we share another episode of the PBS documentary series, Latino Americans: 500 Years of History. Gene Chavez will guide a discussion of the Latino battle for civil rights and we’ll have guests from some of the groups involved in that struggle. If you recall those days, join us and share your story. Enrique Chi, one of the members of the local Latino group Making Movies, has assembled an ensemble to end the evening with danceable music.
All of these events were made possible by Latino Americans: 500 Years of History, a grant tied to the PBS series, from the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Come help us celebrate our local history.
-Ralph Tomlinson, Olathe Public Library