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County Corner: Hispanic Heritage Month

By Middlesex County Commissioner Director Ronald G. Rios

Hispanic Heritage Month is from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 and celebrates the history, culture, and contributions of Americans of Hispanic ancestry.

National Hispanic Heritage Month started out as just one week when it was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. It was changed to one month in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan, starting on Sept. 15. The date was chosen because it coincides with the Independence Day celebrations of several Latin American nations.

During this month, communities hold parades, festivals, and educational activities to celebrate the achievements made of Hispanic and Latin Americans.

Part of this year’s celebration includes the Smithsonian Institute’s “Young Portrait Explorers,” a month-long virtual workshop series that teaches children about outstanding Latinos such as Mexican American activists Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, Dominican American baseball player Pedro Martinez, and many others.

We should also take note and be proud of the military men with the 65th Infantry Regiment who fought in World War II and the Korean War and who were known as “The Borinqueneers” and “el sesenta y cinco de infantería.” “Borinqueneers” is the combination of the words “Borinquen” (the word given to Puerto Rico by its original inhabitants, the Taino Indians) and “Buccaneers.” The majority of the 65th Infantry Regiment were soldiers from Puerto Rico. The others were Puerto Ricans who lived in the United States.

Their unit motto is “Honor et Fidelitas,” which is Latin for honor and fidelity.

We all know the Hispanic pop icons, politicians, and sports personalities. During this month we need to also learn about non-famous Hispanic people ― the teachers, artists, writers, chefs, etc. who contribute each and every day to our communities and the cultures of our society.

Latinos have contributed to all facets of our society throughout the years; they have left their mark on our culture.

One such individual was Blanquita B. Valenti, the former Middlesex County freeholder (now known as County commissioners) and New Brunswick councilwoman who was the first Latina to serve in those positions. Ms. Valenti worked to better Middlesex County by working toward improving school systems and advocating for seniors. She was committed to the citizens of Middlesex County.

One important thing each of us can do is to educate our children regarding Hispanic culture by bringing them to various events that showcase the countless contributions Latinos have made to our culture and communities. You can check out your community website to see what events are being planned. You can also search for educational events like art exhibitions that highlight important Latino heroes in history.

If you are Latino American, celebrate your heritage and share the importance of your Latin culture with others during this month and every month.

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