September 15 marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month, an annual event that celebrates not only the contributions of Hispanic and Latinx Americans, but also the histories and cultures of them and their ancestors from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. This observance lasts until the 15th of the following month and is mirrored by similar events in other countries. While the choice of September 15th may seem random to some, this date was chosen very carefully, as it marks the anniversary of when Guatemalan authorities declared in 1821 that Central America was independent of Spain, sparking the Mexican War of Independence and is close to the days when Mexico, Chile, and Belize celebrate their independence days. As National Hispanic Heritage Month approaches, it seems appropriate to showcase articles that Princeton University students in Rosina Lozano’s Latino History class created as part of their coursework.
Students edited the article on the term Latinx, which is used as a gender neutral way to refer to people that have Latin America ties or are of Latin American descent. Meant to be more gender inclusive, the usage and awareness of the term has slowly grown over time. But they also improved biographies of notable Latinx people.
One of the notable Latinx Americans that students wrote about included Arcadia Bandini de Stearns Baker, a wealthy landowner in Los Angeles. She was also a Californio, a term given to a person who had Spanish or Castillian ancestry and was born in what is now known as California while the area was controlled by either Spain or Mexico. As Arcadia Bandini was part of the Californio elite and her family’s wealth was considerable, she made an extremely attractive prospect for anyone looking for a way to not only join, but form alliances within the elite Californio society. Make no mistake, Arcadia Bandini was a force to be reckoned with. She not only ruled Los Angeles society for a period of time, but she was also an active businesswoman who used portions of her wealth to benefit those around her. If you’ve ever enjoyed Palisades Park in California, you have Arcadia Bandini to thank for this, as it was she that donated the land to Santa Monica, among other charitable acts. When she died in 1912, approximately 2,000 people came to honor her at her funeral, a sign of how important she was and how many lives she impacted.
Students also created an article for Stanford professor Aurelio Macedonio Espinosa Sr., a scholar in the field of Spanish and Spanish American folklore and philology as well as staunch promoter for the study of the Spanish language and literature. They also created an article about the female members of the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican nationalist group that operated in the United States. The Young Lords were originally a turf gang, however their president reorganized them into a national civil and human rights movement. Women participated regularly and heavily in this movement, however they were often overlooked for key leadership position. Even after the dissolution of the Young Lords, the female members are still frequently overlooked or do not receive the same recognition as male members in work documenting the movement.
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Image: District celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month (10601934644), by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.