Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States every year from September 15 to October 15. It is a time to honor and celebrate the history, culture, and contributions of Americans of Latin American ancestry as well as the rich heritage of the peoples of Latin America in general.
This national observance began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week and was expanded in 1988 to a month-long period that was formally signed into law. The celebration begins on September 15 to coincide with and honor the anniversaries of independence in Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Chile, which all fall in mid-September.
Spirituality of Hispanic Heritage
This month is more than an exploration of food, dances, music, and fun. It is a time of deep spiritual influence and legacy. It is a reminder of the importance of freedom, sovereignty, and autonomy. These are concepts that Unity was founded on, and they speak to the similarities of the human spirit and the power of universal needs. We are all vastly connected in this web of life, and the freedom call of Truth sounds loudly across time and space.
In the early 1900s, my ancestors were part of what became known as the Cristero movement in Mexico. It was a tumultuous time, with the new Mexican government seeking to limit the political power of the Catholic Church based on what was believed to be decades of church abuse and corruption. As a result, church services were severely restricted and, in some cases, outlawed.
My ancestors were involved with the Cristeros, Christian freedom fighters, organizing clandestine church gatherings and demanding their right to worship God. There was a fierce collective voice that believed in the power of gathering as a community, and in communion, to pray and connect with the Divine. Cristeros understood clearly who they were as spiritual beings and passionately fought to defend this knowing. They had an unwavering faith that is to be admired.
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, let us remember that on a spiritual plane, there are more connections than divisions.
Faith Struggles Today
Sometimes we lose our faith. We forget we are brought to this earthly plane to experiment and experience the Divine, to enjoy the zeal of life. We forget we are children of God and deserving of all life’s beauty and abundance. We forget we are kings and queens in a world that deems us less-than and makes us question our worth.
When I was in my early 20s, I told my grandmother I didn’t want to go to church because I was a lesbian and people judged me and believed me to be a sinner. She reminded me that my ancestors had fought and died for religious and spiritual expression and freedom, and nothing or nobody had the ability to take my right and spiritual inheritance away. Her reminder changed me forever. It made me keenly aware of the power of spiritual legacy and the importance of knowing who we are as spiritual beings.
Our Right to Spiritual Freedom
In Unity, we come from a deep spiritual tradition with the message that we are expressions of the living Christ. Through the commitment and faith of Myrtle and Charles Fillmore, our Unity cofounders, and their followers and cocreators, a New Thought movement was forged. This movement reminds us of the spiritual power we have within us and of the use of prayer as a tool of transformation.
The Fillmores and other like-minded people in this time followed the spiritual legacy of Jesus as the master teacher. Charles Fillmore understood our spiritual connection to the past and defined Unity this way:
“[A] link in the great educational movement inaugurated by Jesus Christ; our objective is to discern the truth in Christianity and prove it. The truth that we teach is not new, neither do we claim special revelations or discovery of new religious principles. Our purpose is to help and teach mankind to use and prove the eternal Truth taught by the Master.”
Fillmore reminded us of our connection to Jesus. Jesus’ legacy was one to demand the right of all as spiritual beings, the need to question religious forms that impeded spiritual freedom, and the ability of all beings to be expressions of Spirit. Jesus spoke up for Truth and liberation. He spoke up for love, forgiveness, and equality. He spoke up for a return to caring for one another and to building the beloved community. Though his message was not always understood or accepted, his legacy remains.
Charles and Myrtle Fillmore were spiritual adventurers because the idea that we could change our lives by changing our thoughts was a radical proposition in 1889. Their message was oftentimes not appreciated or accepted by others, yet they held in faith and inspired others to faith. They taught people to search for spiritual connection and expression and to be a free and open channel of the Divine.
Claiming Our Heritage
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, let us remember that on a spiritual plane, there are more connections than divisions. There are more similarities in the joyous cry of freedom. Most important, let us not forget that people struggled and died for the right of others—you, me, us—to be free. We are living testaments to the courage, conviction, and passion of those who came before us. With this comes the obligation to honor and uphold that legacy.
In 2 Timothy 1:5-6, the writer praised the faithful generations: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you.”
As we ponder our spiritual ancestral lineage and legacy, we must begin to ask ourselves how we are using our freedom and how it can be used to help others. How are we creating a spiritual legacy that will source, resource, and inspire future generations? How can we remember who we really are and who we have come here to be? Let’s begin listening to the ancestors as we experience and exercise our faith and freedom.