Why Hispanic Heritage Month Fails: The Case of the EPA, Che Guevara, and Plagiarism

Sep 14, 2012
11:46 AM

We don't like Hispanic Heritage Month. We never have and we never will. Our reason is simple: all of a sudden people, brands, and organizations who have no idea or clue about the complexities of the US Latino world try to pretend that they do.

Case in point: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Here is what NBC Latino (through the original story by BuzzFeed) reported today about what happened at the EPA did this week in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The agency sent out an internal email with the following image of Che Guevara. Granted, Guevara is admired by many, but he is also reviled by many as well. Of all the figures you wanted to show, a picture of Che with the "Hasta la victoria siempre" will just add fuel to those who think that Marxism is alive and well in the federal government.

The NBC Latino piece included the following quote from Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL): “I am aghast and upset that a federal agency would send an email depicting el Che Guevara in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The image of Che is an insult to countless people who lost family members because of his evil and twisted acts.”

The story gets weirder, since the internal EPA email also contain plagiarized text from another source. This is what NBC Latino reported:

“Hispanic people are vibrant, socializing and fun loving people,” one part of the memo reads. “Among various facts associated to this culture is that they have a deep sense of involvement in their family traditions and cultures.”

The problem with that little snippet is that its lifted word for word from a website Buzzle.com, without attribution.

The email went on to list factoids about Latinos that, as written, makes it seem like Hispanics are an unknown species, rather than an ever-present part of the U.S. population. “In Hispanic families, there is a culture of living in closely knit groups that not only contains grandfathers and grandchildren but all generations whose descendants are alive,” the email reads. “In most of the families, father acts as a chief of the family while mother works as a housewife.”

The EPA released a statement distancing itself from the email and explaining what went wrong. ”The email was drafted and sent by an individual employee, and without official clearance. Shortly after sending the email in question the individual apologized to her colleagues for the inadvertent error.”

The mass memo did have an interesting fact here and there, however. ”California, Texas, New York, and Florida are the four states that constitute more than 70 percent of the total Hispanic population in the US,” it read. But right after that nugget, it followed up with this helpful tidbit. “One of the most simple Hispanics culture facts is that majority of the Hispanic population speaks Spanish language.”

This hurts. The Hispanic Heritage Month ignorance just needs to stop.