Commemorating Latinx Legacy Month: Maria Hinojosa Discusses Heritage and Cultural Impact in ASM

Maria Hinojosa, news anchor and executive producer of “Latino USA”, the “longest-running national Latino news and cultural public radio program,” addressed the Latinx Andover community in All-School Meeting this past Friday, discussing Latinx invisibility and the constant attack subjected to Latinx people.

“Today, I want to speak very specifically to the Latinos and Latinas and those who identify as Latinx. Because I want to let you know that I see you and that that constant attack on us is met by my constant love and hope,” said Hinojosa.

Hinojosa connected Latinx invisibility to the history of Latinx people in America. Hinojosa emphasized the importance of understanding the historical presence of the land that one stands on. Whether it involved slavery or immigrating, owning up to one’s geographic background is pivotal to know the truth and build unique views to one’s own legacy according to Hinjosa.

“But imagine if we were taught in history and I wonder if you are, you know, that apart from the indigenous languages of the people whose land we’re on, the first language that was spoken on this land was Spanish…. So when people say English only, they actually know what would happen if Latinos and Latinas and all of us actually learned that history and saw that spirit,” said Hinojisa.

She continued, “There’s so much shame on the issue of immigration when we say we’re a country of immigrants. And yet we don’t know our stories rather we have to own our own, you know, yes, maybe my ancestors did in fact engage in slavery. We have to own that. Or my family has been here and brought here against its will in something called slavery, which I actually call international corporatized government supported human trafficking.”

Kianna Jean-Francois ’23 connected to Hinojosa’s reminder to appreciate her privilege in attending a school like Andover. According to her, she has a certain responsibility to uplift the voices of my Latinx community members.

“I was relieved to hear from a speaker that genuinely related to my experiences and made me feel seen. Many of the serious topics that Maria Hinojosa spoke about are things that students in affinity groups and other spaces on campus already try to discuss and raise awareness about, so it was nice to have this message reiterated to the whole school by a role model like Maria,” said Jean-Francois.

Calling out the power of words, and their impact on dehumanizing certain groups of people and race, Hinojosa gave examples of common words that others use to describe, that are not in her vocabulary and why. The first was referring to a person as “illegal.”

“The first thing the Nazis did was to declare the Jews to be an illegal people. And they spoke about them in this fashion. That was the first step to dehumanizing the Jewish people and that led to the Holocaust, so when you hear yourself saying, you’re going to stop yourself and say no, a person who is living without permission, a person who is living without documents, a person who is undocumented, a person who cross the border without a visa, anything, but an illegal immigrant,” said Hinojosa.

Fred Javier ’23, a board member of Alianza Latina, an affinity space for Latinx students at Andover, connected with Hinojosa’s point about the term “illegal immigrants” and how her words can influence a community bigger than himself.

“My favorite part of the ASM was when… she [Maria Hinojosa] was bringing up the idea of illegal immigration and labelling a person as illegal… A lot of people in audience clapped, but there a large part of people who did not clap and she brought attention, and I thought that was impactful, because that leads people to question their perspectives, while also not having to spend all this time to teaching it, it’s a simple way of planting the seeds towards a better perspective.” said Javier.

Emilia Fonseca ’22, another board member of Alianza Latina, appreciated how engaging and personal Hinojosa made her speech. Fonseca found that the comical moments made her emotional thinking about her own family and community. She also reflected on the responsibility that the new Latinx generation has in carrying the legacy of the community in the United States.

“One of my biggest takeaways is about how big the responsibility of the new Latinx generation is in carrying out the legacy of the community in the US. Alianza Latina decided to name the month Latinx Legacy month specifically to actively remind people of the legacy that was created by Latinx people in this country, and listening to Maria Hinojosa talk about us gave me a new perspective; she made me look at the future and think about my own role in this history,” Fonseca wrote in an email to The Phillipian.