Chloe is a senior and assistant editor of the Sports and Entertainment section. This is her second year on the Gazette staff.
America Leon Arriaga
October 29, 2021
“I am Mexican American,” America Leon Arriaga, a senior at GBHS, said.
To Leon Arriaga, Hispanic Heritage Month is a pinnacle of cultural identity.
“Although I usually do not participate in activities concerning Hispanic Heritage Month, as a Hispanic it means a lot. Being born in the United States and having your environment saturated with cultures that do not encompass your own makes it hard to ground yourself and feel a sense of belonging,” Arriaga said. “Being Hispanic, our culture is filled with life, love, family and union. Therefore, being able to see representation during this month brings feelings of joy and connection to the part of me that I sometimes forget to embrace.
Celebrating by immersing herself in the Hispanic community Arriaga and her family attended Hispanic Heritage Month events.
“I have been to a couple of events down in Sacramento as my mom used to work for the Mexican Consulate in which they, along with the community, would host numerous events for Hispanic Heritage Month,” Leon Arriaga said.
The ability to form a connection with heritage, Leon Arriaga clarified, does not always have to stem from attending events.
“Although I do not always go out of my way to go to, or host events, I pride myself in being able to speak my own language,” Leon Arriaga said. “Speaking to my grandparents and going down to Mexico frequently allows me to appreciate my heritage. My family connects me to my background and my culture. Having meaningful conversations and simply listening to my grandparents speak allows me to appreciate and cherish my heritage.”
Finding cultural community Leon Arriaga explains is essential in deepening understanding and appreciation.
Connecting outside of school has been more effective, as Leon Arriaga points out her experience with representation on campus.
“Last year I think, was truly the only time I could say I felt my culture being represented or even talked about (at school),” Leon Arriaga said. “I participated in a class called ethnic studies in which we were able to learn a variety of information on multiple ethnicities, cultures and injustices. In which I was able to share my own experiences, being Hispanic, and learn things about my own culture as well. Apart from that, I can’t really say I have found a cultural community on campus.”
Attending a predominantly white school, Leon Arriaga acknowledges the feelings of seclusion and disconnect in being a minority.
“Already being in a country and a city which id already predominantly white and to be on a campus that is also the same, there is no space in which a kid is able to celebrate their heritage,” Leon Arriaga said. “You are consistently surrounded by, teachers, principles and staff who are not able to relate to who you are as a person or appreciate your culture.”
Aside from the disconnect from the lack of representation, there is a presence of belittlement.
“On top of (the lack of representation), there are kids who will go out of their way to make you feel less than,” Leon Arriaga said.
Belittlement and a lack of representation is detrimental to retaining cultural understanding.
“I have lived in areas in which the schools have been predominantly Hispanic, of all cultures, or predominantly African Americans,” Leon Arriaga said. “Because I have seen it all, I can say that representation is a huge part of how a kid can form themselves. Like the saying goes, ‘you are what you consume and you become who you surround yourself with’, because of that many can tend to lose their culture simply to avoid feeling left out or different.”
Leon Arriaga stresses the need for campuses to provide representation and recognition for minorities most especially during dedicated months of celebration.
“Maybe I’m not looking in the right places (on campus), or I am not looking hard enough, but I still feel like that should not be an excuse as to why I don’t see recognition,” Leon Arriaga said. “To be fair our campus is predominantly Caucasian and representation in really any other ethnicity is rarely seen at all. It’s sad to already see under representation in media and online, only to be shadowed in your own campus again.”