The recognition of one of the oldest elements that make up the rich diversity of American culture came only recently in the history of the nation. Hispanic Heritage week was recognized officially during that transformative period that marked the 1960s by President Johnson, and expanded into a moth long observation during the presidency of Ronald Reagan in 1988, when legislation to that effect was enacted. Hispanic Heritage Month is now celebrated from 15 September to 15 October; the start date connected to the independence days of many Central American Republics, whose independence days are celebrated between 15 and 21 September.
This year for Hispanic Heritage Month I revisit something I wrote in 1998, “Not a Zookeeper’s Culture: LatCrit Theory and the Search for Latino/a Authenticity in the U.S.,” Texas Hispanic Journal of Law & Policy 4:7-27 (1998). I wondered whether much has changed over the twenty years that separates my thinking about the conception and self conception of this very fragile concept--of an orthodox "hispanicity" (itself a politically sensitive term) from the political landscape within which we find ourselves now. Latcrit theory, of course, might have moved on. Beyond that, I am not sure much has changed; perhaps lines have hardened (on one end) and dissipated almost entirely on the other. I suspect that the notions of ethnic community increasing produce a contradiction--the lived experience of community is increasingly remote from its political expression, especially as it is driven by civil and political society. And, of course, what remains the same is the scope and intensity of argument about all of this. My principal concern--the outsider within outsider groups--still looms large and is more visible at the level of groups but not at the level of the individual. And perhaps that is the ultimate marker of our times--as the political and societal conversation continues to coalesce around essentializing markers (and lived assertions of membership, the individual is both abstracted and reconstituted as an expression of orthodox characteristics, against which individual conformity if judged and deviation disciplined. In this age n which ethnic and other non-political communities must renegotiate their relationships with dominant political structures in many places, these challenges might be more important now than they were twenty years ago.