Celebrating Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month: A Q&A with Cynthia Velasco, Content Project Manager at Poston Communications
- Posted by Cynthia Velasco
- On September 28, 2021
- Poston Communications
What is the difference between Hispanic and Latino(x)?
This is a question that comes up often during this time of year, and it is good entry point in gaining a better understanding of what it means when someone identifies or describes themselves as Hispanic or Latino(x). The terms are often used interchangeably in media and in government institutions to describe ethnicity; however, the term Hispanic includes people with ancestry from Spain and Latin American Spanish-speaking countries. Latino is used to describe people geographically, specifically people from Latin America (including Central and South America) and the Caribbean. By virtue of these definitions, a person can be Hispanic and Latino(x) and may choose to identify with both terms or prefer one over the other.
It can be an important distinction to be aware of when getting to know people from non-Spanish-speaking countries, such as Brazil (Portuguese) or Haiti (Haitian Creole), due to the size and diversity of this ethnic/cultural group of individuals. It’s also important to note that many Indigenous languages are still spoken in regions of these countries.
You also might wonder whether it’s appropriate to use the term Latino(a) or the gender neutral, more recently adopted term Latinx. Much discourse has been documented on this topic, and it’s certainly worth reading and exploring to understand the varied perspectives on this matter. My personal recommendation is to simply ask and address or describe individuals how they prefer.
What does Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month mean to you?
Celebrating Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month has always been special to me, but has grown more meaningful in the years since becoming a parent. My family’s heritage comes from the Caribbean (Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic), but my husband comes from a Central Latin American background. His lineage descends from El Salvador and Honduras, giving our son a rich cultural history and set of traditions that intersect as well as exist exclusively.
Many often wonder why Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month starts in the middle of the month of September. This is due to the fact several Latin American countries celebrate the anniversary of their independence on these dates, including Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and my husband’s familial homes of El Salvador and Honduras. This has made the start of this celebration even more special to me.
This time of year marks an increased interest taken in our culture and heritage by others who come from different backgrounds – a value and exercise in curiosity and understanding that I believe we can all benefit from doing often. It provides me an opportunity to have conversations with friends, colleagues and acquaintances about my favorite foods, music artists and songs, cultural traditions and history. It also allows me the chance to clear misconceptions, introduce others to the many intersections our identities can have, and show the depth of our culture and humanity.
It marks a time when I reflect more deeply on the struggles of my maternal grandmother, who came from the Dominican Republic to the United States with my mother to pursue the “American Dream.” I think of the grueling and brave journeys my mother- and father-in-law made from Central America to pursue that same dream. And I consider these choices my loved ones made more meaningfully as I work to bridge a connection for my son between his American identity and his heritage, actively support immigrants and refugees who are making the same brave journeys that afforded opportunity to me, and help non-Hispanics/Latinx broaden their ideas of our identity and culture.
What unique perspective has your heritage/culture given you?
Being a second-generation American, it is sometimes a challenge to feel fully connected to my culture and heritage, but in speaking with other children and grandchildren of immigrants, I realize we have more in common than we realize. To make a brave – possibly dangerous – journey in pursuit of a better life for your family and to do so and choose not to assimilate, I believe demonstrates radical love and selflessness and commitment to one’s identity. Our favorite foods, traditional spices or music might be different, but ultimately the legacy of our traditions and culture lies within us and I consider it my duty to uphold the commitment to maintaining our cultural identity.
How does your culture impact the way you advise clients and communicate – both internally and externally?
I advise and communicate with a number of professionals and experts every day and I realize many others from my background may never get that opportunity. I consider these interactions a chance to fundamentally change perceptions and understandings. I also embrace opportunities to educate others about nuances in our culture that they may not be aware exist, especially as we advise clients on their external communications to audiences where cultural relevance and context are key.
What are some of your favorite resources that celebrate and provide further introduction to Hispanic/Latinx culture?
Fortunately, the advent of the internet has given rise to more diverse and inclusive platforms and media that provide insight into our culture, heritage and experiences. For ephemeral, culturally relevant content, I enjoy the videos on Buzzfeed’s Pero Like blog and the content on media website Mitú. Oftentimes, they remind me of relatives and memories from my own childhood. For more historical and cultural context, Futuro Media Group produces a variety of multimedia content, including podcasts and news articles covering everything from the overlooked origins of Reggaeton music to politics through the lens of Latinos.
Additionally, there are several shows and documentaries you can find on streaming platforms that reveal more about our experiences and culture. My husband and I love Gentefied on Netflix (Season 2 is coming out later this year), Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi on Hulu (which features episodes about Mexican and Peruvian food) and the recently released Romeo Santos King of Bachata on HBO Max.
In conclusion, what advice would you give to businesses to effectively communicate about Diversity, Equity & Inclusion?
I believe as our world grows increasingly connected, a commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion becomes an ethical imperative in doing business. To communicate effectively (and responsibly) to more diverse audiences, businesses should first start by learning and researching to identify their existing weaknesses. To address those weaknesses, further research may be necessary to determine whether outside counsel or expertise is needed in developing an inclusive and culturally relevant communications strategy and plan. With anything new or unfamiliar, businesses should strive to perform their best, but know they may get it wrong or not hit every target. Consistency and authenticity are keys to improving communication and building trust with new, more diverse audiences.