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The Invisibility of Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15th marks the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, retail stores like Target highlight their products made by Hispanic artists and creators. This month is the only month where Hispanic people feel seen and supported. 

While stores roll out their Hispanic Heritage Month merchandise, the group is still severely underrepresented. 

Hispanic and Latino are roughly the second largest ethnic minority in the United States, making up about 18.1% of the population. 

Hispanic/Latinos are the biggest moviegoers yet they never see themselves on the big screen. According to USC Annenberg, 43.6% of popular films of the last 13 years did not feature a Hispanic/Latino character. Inclusion of this community is very rare, but when they are portrayed it perpetuates negative stereotypes. 

While Hollywood struggles to diversify their screens, news outlets find a way to criminalize the community. Roughly 79% of Latinos are American citizens, but when flipping through a news channel the media coverage they receive is only on immigration and crime.  

Media is not the only underrepresented category for Hispanic/Latinos, politics is another portion. 

According to an analysis by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the political representation in local, state, and federal elected offices is 1.2%. The political rhetoric and policies to suppress Latino voters continue to marginalize the community. 

Although Hispanic/Latinos are shunned out of politics, the United States has no problem with the economic contributions of nearly 59 million Hispanic/Latinos. 

Children of this community are often faced with institutional racism. According to the Education Trust, Latino students are underrepresented in both community and four-year institutions. This could be due to disparities in their education, being first-generation students, limited education, the rising cost of college, and the lack of resources.  

In a couple of weeks, stores will put the Hispanic Heritage Month items on sale and move on to the next. The Hispanic/Latino community is put in the spotlight for this month, but is dimmed quickly with no change in the way the community is supported.

Lesley Rodriguez is currently a third year journalism major attending San Jose State University.
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