Our Culture Is Our Strength
Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States is celebrated from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. But we in the Latin-American community don’t limit when we celebrate only to specific days – we take every opportunity to celebrate.
I am proud to celebrate our culture, our successes, and our history with all of my Latin American community as well as all of Philadelphia. We have much to celebrate.
In the poem, “La Mancha del Platano,” Puerto Rican poet Luis Llorens Torres makes reference to those parts of our culture that are so much a part of us that even soap can not wash them away. As with the stain of the green plantain peel, there are things in our culture that cannot be washed away no matter how hard anyone tries. And no one should ever try. To be our authentic selves is critical to our well being. Our music is music of joy. Our food fortifies our soul. Our history is replete with stories of triumphs. Our language caresses the heart.
For the Latin American who is a recent arrival to this country – as with the one who was born here – we sometimes seek ways to remove the stain of the green plantain in order to fit in. Unfortunately, we forget that those things make us unique and give us strength to move forward. They give us the strength to reach out for help when we most need it.
An example of something in our culture that strengthens us is the wisdom of our abuelitas, our grandmothers. At any time, we know we can look to our abuelitas or our family for love, support, and wise advice. Another example is our faith in a higher power that watches and protects us, gives us impetus to continue on.
There is much in our culture that prepares us for moments that are difficult and inevitable. When those moments come, we are prepared to take them on or to seek support. Support from our abuelitas. Support from family. Support from that higher power. And at times, support from professional helpers. We are strong, but we are also human. And when we need help, we know where to go.
About the Author: Eduardo Collazo is director of Community Affairs at the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS). In his role as director, he recognizes the important part that culture plays in our mental health.