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delfin bautista poses for a portrait in their office at Ohio University's Office of Diversity and Inclusion on Monday, September 24, 2018. bautista is the director of the LGBT Center at Ohio University.

National Hispanic Heritage Month honors variability in Hispanic culture

People tell delfin bautista they do not look Hispanic. They answer back, “Well, what am I supposed to look like?”

There is a great variability present among Hispanics and Latinos. National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates that variability from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. It is a celebration of people of Hispanic descent and the contributions made by them. 

It started Sept. 15 because that is when Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Chile, Belize and Nicaragua celebrate their independence days. 

bautista, director of the Ohio University LGBT Center, identifies as a trans Latinx person and uses they/them pronouns along with the lowercase spelling of their name. They said the LGBT Center will host a screening of Coco for National Hispanic Heritage Month. They hope the Latino Student Union will co-sponsor it, as the movie talks about the Latino culture in a very accessible way.

bautista said the Latino Student Union is organizing an event with other offices on Oct. 9, and José Aviles, chief enrollment officer at Louisiana State University, will give a lecture relating to artistic expression. 

They said one of the things they struggle with is the culture of hypermasculinity present among the Latin culture, as they does not identify solely as a man or masculine. Spanish is not a gender-inclusive language, they said. 

“It’s complicated,” bautista, who is an advisor for Latino Student Union, said.

It is a discomfort for bautista when Spanish speakers use the “gendered language”  as an excuse to justify their non-inclusiveness. They want to challenge the English and Spanish languages to make them more inclusive. 

“To misgender a person in English is also not okay,” they said. “That has been an area of friction for me with my Spanish-speaking colleagues here.”

bautista said older Spanish-speaking people are more resistant to changing the language, as they are not in contact with more diverse people. Last year, however, bautista received the nickname of “abue,” instead of abuela or abuelo from his colleagues, which bautista liked a lot.

Another misconception bautista faces is the struggle of looking Hispanic, as people have a narrow idea of what Hispanics look like. 

“Because we are such a diverse community, there are folks whose Latin identity gets erased or undermined because they don’t look a certain way,” bautista said. “We’re a diverse people.”

Claudia González-Vallejo, a professor of psychology, said she has not faced any hardships in particular because she is from Chile, which has a different history compared to other Hispanic countries. 

Gonzalez-Vallejo said stereotypes apply to most people in the Hispanic culture because people do not understand the culture of people from different backgrounds. She further said Hispanics are not just the people who share the border with Mexico. 

She also said that at the federal level, there is a gross representation of Hispanics, as it assumes all of them have a similar background. 

“In great variability, there is richness,” Gonzalez-Vallejo said. “It is time for learning and celebrating the variability in the Hispanic culture.”

Carla Triana, president of International Student Union, who identifies as Mexican, Latinx and American, prefers to celebrate Latino Heritage Month over Hispanic Heritage Month, as “Hispanics” was a term given by Spaniards. 

Triana said the month gives her an opportunity to embrace and celebrate her culture and to also spread awareness about the Latino culture in the U.S.

“It’s an empowering month,” Triana, a senior studying international business, said.

She said she exists in the middle, as people say she is not Mexican enough or American enough. Like bautista, she also receives comments from people who say she does not look Mexican. 

“Mexican and Latinos come in every shape and color,” she said.“I’m a proud Mexican.”


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