DENVER (CBS4) – Hispanic Heritage Month is a chance to reflect on the successes of the Latino community and acknowledge what struggles still remain for families in Colorado. The Latino Community Foundation of Colorado hosted a series over the past four weeks to help discuss issues related to history, identity, leadership and action.
“Identity is fluid, identity is something that shifts and changes throughout your lifetime,” said Rachel Griego, the vice present of philanthropy. “Our lived experiences need to be credited, they need to be valued.”
The foundation works to promote civic engagement for Latinos in Colorado and help them participate at every level in society. The conversations on history and identity helped to examine how there has been an evolution in how Latinos self-identify themselves. Some say their view of themselves was shaped by the need to assimilate, as well as the common aspects and differences they saw around others. One misconception with that identity is that all Latinos speak Spanish.
“I think that often times we think that we all have to be under one label,” Griego told CBS4. “We sort of need to break open those boxes that people are always trying to put us in.”
Griego shared during one of the forums that for her geography played a key role in shaping her identity. She points out that even in Colorado the Latino community can differ greatly from the southern part of the state to the high country. She added with that mix comes a range of skills that can contribute to society.
“We bring expertise just by the basis of who we are,” she said. “We’re always learning from one another.”
Latinos will be the future of the economy in Colorado and the U.S., Griego said. She attributes that in part to the young generation in the community. The range in age among Latinos also creates differing opinions on identity, including the use of the term Latinx.
“I think it’s very emotionally charged,” she said. “I think that we need to embrace everybody’s own individual experience.”
Griego has found that some younger Latinos prefer the term but she knows those among her grandparents’ generation, many would not identify with it. She explains that for some, it erases the African and Indigenous communities among Latinos. Others have started to use “Latine” instead of “Latinx” as the search for a truly inclusive term can still leave some people excluded.
“They are trying to fit us into one term, and we don’t fit into one term, we fit into various terms,” she said. “I don’t fit into any one of these boxes.”
The discussion comes at a time when more people are identifying as mixed race and embracing two or more cultures in their heritage. Griego says having safe spaces where people can feel liberated choosing terms they are most comfortable with is the best way forward.
“For me Latina has power. It gives me strength,” she shared. It’s a term she used later in life after moving around the country.
As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to an end, she hopes the view on Latinos highlights families in Colorado are here to contribute, not take but give to their communities.
“We’re an important and valuable part of this community,” she said. “Identity is really deep for us, it’s based on history, it’s based on our lived experiences.”
To learn more about the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado visit latinocfc.org.
Watch the Our Story forum series in English and Spanish at youtube.com.