Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and Addressing Barriers to Services

September 28, 2020

From September 15 through October 15, the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture and achievements of the United States are recognized and celebrated. It is a time to learn more about Hispanic and Latino heritage, and the many ways it influences our society.

For many people, Hispanic and Latino/a or Latinx are used interchangeably- which isn’t necessarily the case. Hispanic refers to a person who is from, or is a descendant of someone who is from, a Spanish-speaking country. On the other hand, Latino/a or Latinx refers to a person who is from, or is a descendant of someone who is from, a country in Latin America. This does lead to overlap; however, to most it’s a matter of personal preference for the term they feel best encompasses their heritage and cultural identity.

While it is important to celebrate the many achievements of Hispanic Americans, it’s even more imperative to address the barriers that they face in society today. Many Hispanic Americans do not seek out receiving health care services of high quality, in large part due to the many cultural differences that are present within our healthcare system. Language barriers alone can lead to misunderstandings, poorer patient-provider relationships, and increased anxiety around using the healthcare system.

According to the Office for Victims of Crime, victim service agencies across the country have not kept up with the rapid growth of Hispanic American victim populations. This includes a lack of bilingual and bicultural direct service staff and volunteers, lack of bilingual and bicultural materials, and a lack of bilingual and bicultural trainers. Within many Hispanic communities, there is a heavy importance on the ability to trust another, in order to confide in them and to receive the help and care they need. Without bilingual and culturally informed services, the Hispanic community will continue to fail to receive care and services they deserve.

We cannot continue to fail our Hispanic Americans. We must change how the system is in order to provide equal treatment options for everyone.

I encourage you to go and explore all of the incredible things that Hispanic Americans have created. From virtually visiting the Latino Center at the Smithsonian Institute to watching a film from the AFI Silver Theatre’s Latin American Film Festival to donating to an agency working toward equality and justice for Hispanic and Latin Americans, there are many ways to uplift the work and lives of Hispanic Americans.

Blog Post by Alexandra Smith, NCCASA's Member Services Assistant