“Sí, se puede.” ~ Motto of the United Farm Workers of America.
October is a month to celebrate. Starting on September 15th and ending on October 15th, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to recognize the people of the Hispanic community in Tulsa, the country, and all over the world. It is a time of remembrance for all those great leaders who fought for acceptance within their community. To commemorate this month, our Editor-in-Chief, Betsy Martin, interviewed a prominent member of Booker T.’s Latinx community and leader of Latin American Society, José Arriaga. They discussed his connection to the Hispanic community as well as his own personal motivations for his deep involvement as well as the importance of the Hispanic community in Tulsa and the rest of the world. Arriaga proposed ways to strengthen the community and promote a sense of pride within it. Here is what he had to say:
Betsy: What are some extracurricular activities you are involved in?
José: I am currently fully committed to Latin American society because I’m a senior leader. I am present every time we get together.
B: What are your plans for the future?
J: I plan on taking advantage of the two free years TCC [Tulsa Community College] offers and then transferring to OSU [Oklahoma State University] and following a career path in civil engineering.
B: What is your family’s cultural heritage and why is Hispanic Heritage Month important to you?
J: My parents are Hispanic, more specifically Mexican. Hispanic Heritage Month is important to me because it depicts my culture and who I am.
B: What are two words you would use to describe Tulsa’s Hispanic community?
J: Two words I would use to describe Tulsa’s Hispanic community are united and diverse.
B: What is your favorite part about the Hispanic community in Tulsa?
J: La Plaza. It has amazing food and little stores. It’s like a Hispanic mini-mall.
B: In your opinion, who is one of the most prominent Hispanic historical figures?
J: Cesar Chavez.
B: What are some of the biggest events that bring the Hispanic community together in Tulsa?
J: The Cinco de Mayo festival and September 16th, which is Mexican Independence Day.
B: What are a few ways the Hispanic community has changed Tulsa and made it as diverse as it is today?
J: Our restaurants bring different foods to Tulsa and our churches bring our faith.
B: What is one place in Tulsa that you believe highlights the Hispanic community as a whole?
J: La Plaza on 21st and Garnett. You can eat there, shop, pay bills, and get help with insurance among other things.
B: What are a few problems that the Hispanic community faces? What solutions do you believe people our age can use in order to resolve these issues?
J: Ignorance is a big issue in my opinion. A lot of Hispanics are so focused on working and and sending money back to their home countries that they don’t look at what’s going on around them. When something happens, they don’t know what to do. Fear is also an issue. They don’t do certain things because they are afraid something bad will happen to them or their family. A way young ones can help is by translating and just supporting the adults, guiding them and making sure they understand what’s going on. We are the voice for our parents and family.
B: What are a few ways that we can bring more recognition to the Hispanic community?
J: Acknowledgment. Just seeing how hard we work and acknowledging our effort.
B: Do you have any advice for those who aren’t interested in learning about or celebrating their heritage or those who might be ashamed of it?
J: Anybody interested in learning about our culture can simply come to Latin American society with an open mind. Those ashamed, there’s nothing to be ashamed of, be proud of who you are and what you represent.
Thank you so much, José, for giving an insight into the Hispanic community that Americans are surrounded by every day. It is a culture that is, and always has been, so beautiful, diverse, and inspirational.
_“If you have a dream, don’t let anybody take it away.” _~ Selena