The American Latino Heritage Fund is encouraging Latinos to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by visiting national parks that preserve and embrace contributions Latinos have made to the United States.
“Historically, we don’t go to parks. That’s not what we think about,” Midy Aponte, executive director of the American Latino Heritage Fund, told VOXXI.
“But there is so much Latino history there, so what we try to do is bridge this message and encourage Latinos by telling them ‘this is your land too and you can come to these parks and we want you to participate in them.’”
As a way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sep. 15 to Oct. 15, the American Latino Heritage Fund, which is a fund of the National Park Foundation, released a list of the top seven destinations and events people can visit to learn about American Latino history.
One of those events is the Hispanic Heritage Month Commemoration at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida on Sept. 30. Another event includes a tour of Rancho de las Cabras at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park in Texas. Tours are provided during the first Saturday of every month.
A full list of the events can be found at the American Latino Heritage Fund‘s website.
Aponte said these events intend to teach people about how “Hispanic American history is American history.”
She also noted that of the more than 80,000 national historic sites, only 4 percent commemorate any kind of minority contributions to the U.S. That includes Latinos, African American, Native American, the LGBT community and women. The fund is working to change that by raising money that is used to pay for the nomination process of new Latino heritage sites into the National Park Service.
“The American Latino Heritage Fund seeks to preserve historic places where historic events unfolded, specific to American Latinos, so that we bring those sites into the National Park Service and tell a more complete story of the American experience,” Aponte told VOXXI.
She said the fund encourages people throughout the country to make recommendations to the National Park Service’s website about Latino historic sites that should be preserved.
Once recommendations have been made, the American Latino Heritage Fund steps in to provide financial support to fund the nomination of those sites. Ultimately, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service decide if and when the sites will be added to the national list of historic sites.
Aponte also said the group’s money not only goes to pay for historic landmark nominations, it also goes to fund the development of educational programs that support getting Latino heritage history into schools and educational curriculums.
American Latino Heritage Fund has received wide support from Latino leaders, including labor leader Dolores Huerta. During a panel discussion at the National Council of La Raza’s annual conference in Las Vegas two months ago, Huerta praised the fund’s work.
“This is a dream come true for so many of us, because it’s important for all of our children to learn our history,” she said.
The American Latino Heritage Fund was formed in June 2011 after the Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar brought together a group of Latino scholars from across the country to the California ranch called Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz (La Paz), the place where labor leader César E. Chávez lived and led the farm worker movement during his last 22 years.
The scholars had a conversation about how the American Latino history relates to nation’s history. That conversation led to the launching of the American Latino Heritage Initiative, and ultimately the American Latino Heritage Fund was created to help with funding and to move the initiative forward.