September 15 is the first day of National Hispanic Heritage Month, a 30-day celebration of Hispanic culture in the United States. It is a time to pay tribute to and celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Thankfully, we have a rich Hispanic and Latinx community to recognize and celebrate in Genesee County.
Locally, Hispanic culture is preserved and celebrated in many ways. For example, El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil, a local nonprofit, is dedicated to preserving Mexican culture and enriching children’s lives through dance, music and education.
Most years, the organization partners with other local organizations to host the Flint Hispanic Festival, which allows Hispanic and Latinx community members to celebrate their culture primarily through traditional dance and cuisine. This year, El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil will not host the festival due to the coronavirus pandemic; however, they will host virtual online events to celebrate the month instead.
Outside of appreciating culture through art, another way to honor National Hispanic Heritage Month is by supporting organizations that aim to assist the Hispanic and Latinx community in our area. Local organizations such as the Latinx Technology Community Center and Latinos United for Flint provide tools such as language assistance and educational resources to individuals in the Latinx and Hispanic community.
Additionally, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church celebrates Mexican culture each year at the Annual Fiesta Mexicana in June, which is a great way to celebrate culture and support one of our local churches.
Another way to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month is by supporting local Hispanic and Latinx owned businesses in our community. Some restaurants that come to mind include La Familia Morales, Soriano’s Mexican Kitchen and Poco Loco.
We live in a diverse community, and it is important to find ways to experience and celebrate the cultures of the citizens with which we share our region.
In my case, I started my career in the arts and I credit my exposure to different heritages and cultures to my studies. Art is a great way to explore cultures and experience other people’s lives, which is why I take my children to the Flint Institute of Art. There, I can expose them to art from around the world, and encourage them to watch foreign, independent films that teach them about different languages and cultures.
It is important to preserve, learn about and celebrate the cultures of people who share our community, and I want to encourage other families to find a way they can expose themselves to different cultures in our community a way that fits them. This month and next, I encourage you to consider some of the above options to recognize National Hispanic Heritage Month and celebrate the diversity in our community.
Kristina Johnston is the Chief Operating Officer of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.