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By: Marcela Saldivia-Berglund, Ph.D., Latino Services Librarian
For: Red Rock News
Date: October 9, 2009

Sedona Public Library Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

It is a known fact–and most Americans take pride in it—that the United States is a country founded on strong democratic principles defended in the Constitution that protect the civil rights and individual freedom of all. Immigrants from around the world have come–and continue coming—to this country seeking to better their lives because they believe in these principles. The different ethnic groups that comprise this great nation are being acknowledged for their particular contributions to the economical and cultural growth of this country. Through the years, numerous cultural festivals and heritage celebrations have been created to honor these groups, and one such celebration is National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a period designated to recognize the contributions of Hispanic-Americans to the United States, and to celebrate Hispanic heritage and culture. This celebration began in 1968 as “Hispanic Heritage Week” approved by President Lyndon Johnson. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1981, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.  In 1988 it was expanded by President Ronald Reagan to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. The starting point was chosen to be September 15 because it marks the Independence Day of five Central American Republics: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. In addition, Mexico celebrates its Independence Day on September 16, and Chile on September 18. This 30-day celebration also includes October 12, known as “Día de la Hispanidad,” which commemorates the arrival of Columbus in the Bahamas in 1492. “Embracing the Fierce Urgency of Now” is this year’s motto for the National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Sedona Public Library has a great collection of books written by outstanding Spanish, Latin American, and Latino/Latina authors. Our esteemed readers may wonder what the difference is between these three terms. Spanish refers to Spain—the Old Country—which through conquest and colonization left a cultural imprint on the Amerindian peoples they encountered. Unlike the Anglo-Saxon colonization of America, the Spaniards practiced extended miscegenation giving birth to a new kind of people, half-Spanish half-Amerindian (or “mestizos”) as well as the next generation of Spaniards born in the Americas (or “criollos”).They became the inhabitants of the new Latin American Republics who directly inherited the Spanish traditions, but, most importantly, the Spanish language. In the 1960s, under President John F. Kennedy, the “Alliance for Progress”—an economic assistance program to Latin America to counteract what was perceived as an emerging communist threat from Cuba to the United States—was created. Ever since, the term “Latin America” gained international acceptance to designate the 21 independent Spanish-speaking republics that once were colonies of Spain. The notion of “Latinos” is derived from it, as well as its gendered variables of “Latino/Latina.”

Contrary to general belief, Latino authors born in the United States write in English because they've been raised and educated here and not in a Spanish-speaking country. Some popular titles originally written in English are “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros which captures the life of a Mexican-American girl growing up in Chicago; “Dreaming in Cuban” by Cristina Garcia describes the experience of a Cuban family transplanted in New York; “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz narrates the lives of three generations of Dominicans in New Jersey; “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza” by Gloria Anzaldúa describes the open cultural wounds of a Mexican woman struggling for survival on the Mexico-U.S.border.

Our collection both in English and Spanish includes biographies of remarkable Latinos such as farm-worker activist Cesar Chavez; political revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara; surrealist artist Frida Kahlo; poet and activist Pablo Neruda; baseball legend Sammy Sosa, and many more.

In addition, the collection of DVDs offers great films in English language such as “The House of the Spirits” based on the bestseller novel by Isabel Allende with a remarkable cast including Glenn Close, Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Winona Ryder, and Antonio Banderas. There are new DVD acquisitions in Spanish language with English subtitles that are film prize winners, such as the Cuban release “Strawberry and Chocolate”; the Mexican magical love story “Like Water for Chocolate”; and the deep Spanish drama “The Sea Inside.” Moreover, there are excellent music CDs on a variety of Latin rhythms, Billboard popular hits, and Latino Emmy-awarded artists.

You can also select excellent titles in English translation by many Latin American and Spanish writers in the main fiction stacks. Some recommended titles include: “The Island of Eternal Love” by Daina Chaviano (Cuba); “The Angel's Game” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Spain); “Of Love and Other Demons” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Colombia); “2666” by Roberto Bolaño (Chile); “Zorro” by Isabel Allende (Chile); “The Old Gringo” by Carlos Fuentes (Mexico); and “Aleph” by Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina). For those who enjoy the pleasure of reading in Spanish, we recommend “De cómo las muchachas García perdieron el acento” by Julia Alvarez (Dominican Republic); “La multitud errante” by Laura Restrepo (Colombia); “La noche de Tlatelolco” by Elena Poniatowska (Mexico); “La fiesta del chivo” by Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru); “El reino de este mundo” by Alejo Carpentier (Cuba); and “Vivir para contarla” by Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia). Come to the Library and enjoy reading, listening to music, and watching DVDs during Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond!

Marcela Saldivia-Berglund
Marcela Saldivia-Berglund, Ph. D., author of this week's article,
is Latino Services Librarian of the Sedona Public Library.

Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News
and is also presented on: Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.