The COVID-19 pandemic impacted Hispanic communities and businesses disproportionately, but the resilience of Hispanics and Latinos has been nothing short of remarkable. They provide the entire world with role models as to what it takes to stay strong in the face of personal and economic challenges. The pandemic caused Hispanics and Latinos high rates of job and business losses, because so many work or own businesses in the very industries most impacted by the pandemic, i.e. services and construction. But this is not a story about tragedy. It is a story of a resilient group of people who rely on their cultural values to remain strong.
Cultures Bound by Core Values
There is no better time to celebrate the richness of the Hispanic and Latino culture and core values than during Hispanic Heritage Month. People with roots embedded in South America, Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean and many other countries are held together by core values that tie them together, but what exactly is “the culture” when so many Hispanics and Latinos have different backgrounds? It is tempting to think they all come from a single culture, but that is actually a type of bias, akin to saying the Southern U.S. culture is the same as the Northeastern U.S. one, because everyone lives in the U.S. For Hispanics and Latinos, as an example, the Caribbean culture is different from the South American culture, and the Mexican culture is different from the Puerto Rico culture. Regardless of origin or background, all these cultures are rich in tradition, and they are bound together with core values.
The influence of Hispanics is culturally broad. In the U.S., the arrival of their cultures brought the Spanish language, spoken now in more than 41 million homes and influencing educational curriculums.
United Around Core Values
The four core values that unite Hispanics and Latinos are family, religion, food and music. Numerous research projects have come to the same conclusions. There are traditional religious celebrations, musical genres like the salsa and reggaeton, dancing and a love of life. Speaking of celebrations, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated by Hispanics for historical reasons, and non-Hispanics join in the festivities, creating a bond between different cultures. Día de Los Muertos has taught people a new way of thinking about the loss of loved ones, bringing great comfort to American culture where death is usually considered a subject to avoid.
However, it is family that is the most fundamental value. The Hispanic and Latino culture is defined by the love of family and community.
The family unit is the single most important unit among Hispanics and Latinos. Family means immediate and also an often-large extended family. Dedication to family or familismo is the core value that refers to dedication to family, placing the needs of the family above the needs of the individual. Hispanics have a deep belief that family members always take care of each other. They care for the elderly, pool resources when necessary to help someone in need, keep traditions alive, celebrate each other’s successes and comfort each other during difficult times. Loyalty and respect are highly valued, and family members regularly spend time together and rely on each other for advice. They help each other however they can.
The Hispanic and Latino culture also contains something called personalismo. It is a term for the importance of personal connections with others where there is a caring, trusting, and warm personal relationship. It is based on a perception that each person truly cares about the well-being of the other person. People and relationships are prioritized over personal benefit. Collectivismo is the value of community in which people rely on each other like extended family.
Hispanic food culture is now deeply embedded in cities and towns across the country – in restaurants, on grocery store shelves and on dinner tables in homes. Of course, there are empanadas, tamales, and tacos, but that barely scratches the surface of the great variety of Hispanic food. Think of Caribbean food culture, that introduced foods like fried plantains and jerk chicken. What the Hispanic cultures do have in common is the belief that food is not just food. Sharing food is a celebration of both history and the present, because of the historical recipes passed down through generations, uniting people at meals and celebrations.
Resilience Adds to the Tapestry of America
It is these core values that make Hispanics and Latinos resilient. They care for their family members, community members and friends, and work together for the good of the group. Hispanic and Latinos contribute much to the tapestry of America in so many ways. Their resilience is founded in core values that we all can emulate.