Hispanics & the National Discourse: A Message from Reverend Luis Cortes
Dear Friends of Esperanza,
September 15th marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. For Esperanza and our community at large, this is a time of pride, historical reflection, and thoughts about the future and how we impact the landscape of our great nation.
As we move toward the next Presidential election, national discourse characterizes our community as criminals who have cheated the system and stolen from hard-working families, or thugs whose mission it is to destroy the very fabric of this country. It labels human beings as illegal. Contraband personified.
Most Americans, consciously or unconsciously, know that this is not true.
There are 54 million Hispanics in the United States, the vast majority of which are here as legal citizens, first and second generation American families. While the rhetoric creates a perception of an all-time high of illegal immigration, it is actually been decreasing and remained stable for the past five years.
Upon reflecting on the negative commentary, it is undeniably clear that we have a responsibility to respond with action that is corrective in nature. The following initiatives are examples of our response:
In Philadelphia Esperanza launched the #YoSoyLaCara campaign as a way to create a sense of pride in our culture within our community. This year, the campaign focuses on our youth. We, as leaders in our community, are called to create a space of expression for young people, where they can find value in themselves through their cultural identity, despite the current pejorative rhetoric.
We also have the opportunity to express our values through our faith. Hispanic faith is recognized as an important attribute of our identity; so much so that Oprah is hosting a meeting for faith leaders at her home on September 17th, and Esperanza will be there. On September 23rd when the Pope, an Argentinian, visits Washington, D.C., Esperanza will be at the White House as part of the welcoming contingent representing the United States.
Finally, on October 8th near the close of Hispanic Heritage Month, Esperanza and Warner Bros. will host a special advanced screening of “The 33”, the harrowing story of resilience, personal transformation, and triumph of the human spirit when 33 Chilean miners were buried alive 200 stories beneath the surface by the collapse of a gold and copper mine. We hope that this event will change the way we look at leadership “from the ground, up.”
We are actively seeking to change the way America sees Hispanic populations. We know the truth about Hispanics in America. We know that we are academics and artisans, politicians and plumbers. We know that we are not a monolithic mass of stereotypes. And that is why we cannot sit idly by as caricaturizations of our ethnicity go unchallenged in mainstream media.
“The greatest sin of our time is not the few who have destroyed, but the vast majority who sat idly by.” -Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Lift up your voice.
Rev. Luis Cortes, Jr.
Founder, President & CEO of Esperanza
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