Every Learner Everywhere Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month
Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. We invite you to join us in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month as we recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic American students and digital learning champions in higher education who are inspiring others to achieve success.
My name is Zaire McMican and I am an ambitious business major at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.
How do you identify yourself?
When it comes to my identity, I view myself as Black and Latino. As my family would say, we’re Blatino. It’s a really big part of me. My mom is Black and my dad is Panamanian, so having the experience of both cultures has always been a really important aspect of my life.
For me personally, growing up I wasn’t actually really much in tune with the Hispanic side of myself. I grew up with my mom. And my dad, he lived down here [North Carolina]. And so it wasn’t until I got older and got closer to my dad, and I would visit him a bunch, that I started to understand the importance of my Latinx identity.
You know, seeing certain things, like my grandma speaking Spanish with my great grandma and how they went about with their mannerisms and stuff. One big thing in Panamanian culture, at least in my family, is blunt honesty. They’re like extremely, brutally honest with each other. I’ve seen instances where like someone cooks something, they [the others] don’t like it and they’re like, “This is terrible.” And they [the cooks] are like, “Oh, okay cool. I know not to make this next time.” And like, you know, in some places that’s not…you know, some people don’t work with that.
Definitely learning more about my heritage as I’ve gotten older…it’s something that I really enjoy and anything from seeing my grandma make empanadas, and my dad, he continues making them now that she’s passed away. It’s something that’s really important to me.
How does your institution celebrate Hispanic Heritage?
I’m really happy to say that one of the biggest reasons I chose to come to UNCG was because of how diverse and inclusive it is. And they do a really good job, I think, at least in my opinion, of welcoming Latinx students. I think either the first or second week of school they had this Latin festival to welcome the Latinx students right in front of the cafeteria in front of our fountain. They had a D.J.. They had people giving out things, I even have this right here [holds up a pin-on button] that I got from the festival, which says, “I”m proud to be…and then they let you write in your Hispanic heritage, which for me is Panamanian. It’s stuff like that I think is really awesome, so I think my school does a great job of being inclusive. There’s Latin dance clubs on campus and clubs for if you just want to learn how to speak Spanish. I really appreciate that and I think UNCG does a really good job of being inclusive and celebrating Hispanic heritage.
What do you want people to know about your heritage?
I’d say as someone who has two really big different cultural aspects to my identity, it’s definitely a unique challenge in a sense but it is also very rewarding. I’d say it’s rewarding in the sense it’s like it opens me up to a bunch of new things and it immediately gives me a doorway to two different cultures to see how two different people live. It’s kind of fun because I get to take different aspects that I see from each culture that I like and make my own. But I’d say one way it’s kind of challenging is, at least for me growing up because I wasn’t as in tune with my Hispanic culture growing up and I grew up around a lot of Black folk. People were like, “Oh, you’re not fully Black so you’re not really one of us.” But then when I would go around Latinx people they were like, “You don’t speak Spanish. You’re not in tune with it. You’re not one of us either.” So, I kind of had this outsider perspective, which is where it can be challenging. A lot of people that I’ve met too, that are mixed race, have had those experiences. So, I’d definitely say that is one of the challenges, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s made me who I am. It’s helped me see things from a more objective point of view and I get to appreciate both cultures for what they are. It’s something that I’m really grateful for.Watch the video
Zaire McMican is an ambitious and involved business major at UNCG in Greensboro, North Carolina. He is originally from Newark, New Jersey and is of Panamanian and African-American descent. He is a proud second generation college student, who seeks to spread more inclusive practices in business while helping people develop.