The City of Trenton is a melting pot, with cultures from all over the world represented in our community. Countless generations came to this nation in pursuit of a better life and placed their roots here in Trenton on their path to the American dream. Taking the time to celebrate those who call our community home is a meaningful way in which we can connect with others and pursue a life as global citizens. As Latino & Hispanic Heritage Month prepares to get underway, let’s today take a look back at how this community has made its tremendous strides in the Garden State over the years.
September 15th through October 15th marks the celebration of Latino & Hispanic Heritage Month, a national celebration of culture and community. This invites communities from all over the country to embrace diversity, learn more about different cultures, and educate the public on the rich history of the Latino and Hispanic communities throughout the United States. Celebrations officially began in 1968, when President Lyndon B. Johnson created Hispanic Heritage Week. Celebrations were later expanded in 1988, when President Ronald Reagan declared a 30-day celebration from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. These dates are significant, as Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua all recognize their anniversary of independence on September 15th. Chile, Mexico, and Belize also celebrated their independence during this time.
At the present moment, the Hispanic community makes up approximately 19% of the national population, 20.8% of New Jersey’s population, and 36.7% in the City of Trenton. The Latino community has deep roots in NJ, with history tracing all the way back to the 1850s. Over the years, the Latino community has continued to grow and flourish throughout the state, with larger influxes of population growth beginning in the 1950s and 1960s. In order to understand how and why these populations have grown, it is critical to first understand the political and social conditions that have motivated periods of migration.
The United States is, at its core, a nation of immigrants. Individuals and families from every corner of the planet have made the journey from their country of origin to the United States in pursuit of a more prosperous life. As we welcome new residents to our shores, our nation continues to be enriched by the thousands of people who have chosen to share their lives and cultures in the United States. Many of those who immigrate to the United States do so for a greater chance at opportunity and safety. However, that does not mean our migrant community has lost connection with their countries of origin. Many maintain strong ties both here and abroad, further facilitating a truly global society.
Although the Latino and Hispanic communities have seen great strides over the last several decades, this community has nonetheless faced its fair share of struggles. Members of this community have been forced to overcome great challenges over the years, including racism, xenophobia, and prejudice. Further complicated by a complex immigration system and cultural differences, there is no doubt this community has made immense sacrifices to reach the heights they have today. The United States has much to learn from these incredible families, who day in and day out exemplify what it means to live the American dream. This month and every month, may we take a moment to appreciate the rich history, culture, and life of the Latino and Hispanic communities.