Instructor Calo Gitano teaches the history of flamenco to the Lower School (Photo: @paceacademy on Instagram)

Hispanic Heritage Month took place from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, honoring the cultures and contributions of Hispanic and Latinx Americans who have influenced and enriched our nation. These dates coincide with the national independence days of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and they prelude the independence days of Mexico, Belize and Chile in the next week. During this month, millions of Americans come together to celebrate, as they have since 1989, when President George H.W. Bush first proclaimed this occasion. 

As part of Pace’s mission to celebrate diversity and promote inclusion, administrators and students have both hosted and attended a variety of events. To kick off the month, flamenco instructor Calo Gitano taught a flamenco class. Junior Charlie Fleming described the lesson as enriching. “I liked the part where she explained the history behind the dance since I had no idea where it came from,” he said.

In the library, two displays were featured, including Hispanic young adult authors, to promote reading that aligned with the month’s theme. The cafeteria staff also played a role in ensuring proper commemoration, with special lunch menus, such as Cuban cuisine, Tex-Mex, and a variety of taco options. 

The presence of Hispanic heritage at Pace is perhaps most prominent on the 4th floor, where the Spanish classrooms educate and enrich Pace students. In honor of this month, many of those teachers assigned projects to highlight it. In Upper School World Language Teacher Paula Pontes’ class, students looked around Atlanta for Spanish presence and took selfies. In Upper School World Language Teacher Laura Agront-Hobbs’ class, they recognized the achievements and contributions of Hispanic-American champions who have inspired others to achieve success and made presentations. 

However, Pace still has steps to take to ensure the recognition and representation of Hispanic and Latinx students on campus. Despite Hispanic and Latinx people making up 16.7% of the American population, only about 3.9% of the Pace Upper School identify with this label. The Latinx Affinity group bands these people together, and they meet to discuss their identity, culture and more. 

In the broader community, outside of Pace, more serious change is occurring. Progress in legislation is necessary to ensure the continued support of Hispanic and Latinx residents in America, despite their immigration status. In the past year, the Biden administration has restarted a program that reunites children from several Central American countries with their parents who are in the United States. The administration also passed a bill that “modernizes our immigration system, and prioritizes keeping families together, growing our economy, responsibly managing the border with smart investments, addressing the root causes of migration from Central America, and ensuring that the United States remains a refuge for those fleeing persecution.” Changes in rulings are slowly patching up the crisis at our southern border which has been occurring for several years. 

This month should be a celebration and a reminder of just how far we have come as a nation, and what work we have yet to accomplish. Through the continued efforts of activists and legislators, Hispanic and Latinx communities are thriving and overcoming obstacles, crossing barriers to advance our society. These 30 days are just the beginning.

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