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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

National Hispanic Heritage Month and Pan-African relatedness

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From Sept. 15-Oct. 15, we celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. In 1968, Hispanic Heritage Week began under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover the present 30-day period. This bipartisan support has been maintained since those times.

The independence days for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua are held on Sept. 15. Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18. Oct. 12, known as Indigenous Peoples’ Day for many nations, happens during this time. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are also related territories of the United States that may think about independence during this time.

But what may be even less well known is the Pan-African relatedness with this month. All of these places have significant roots, legacies and identities with Pan-African peoples. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey of Latino adults shows, for example, that one-quarter of all U.S. Latinos self-identify as Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean or otherwise of African descent with roots in Latin America.

At the recent annual Bread Advocacy Summit—and the related Latino/a Convening and Pan-African Consultation—a joint conversation between these lineages found opportunity to celebrate their mutual focuses. Both events identified board members associated with these populations and all participants benefitted from their wisdom and leadership regarding Bread for the World’s legislative agenda. More specifically, they shared insight about how the 2023 Farm Bill can support farming and farmers in these communities.

They shared how they were embracing Bread’s call for a Farm Bill that is equitable and sustainable and that offers good nutrition for everyone. In addition to other aspects of this bill, they agreed that Congress should support S. 949/HR 253, the Puerto Rico Nutrition Assistance Fairness Act, which would transition Puerto Rico from NAP (Nutritional Assistance Program) to SNAP (the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program).

Why does this matter? NAP to SNAP contributes to a more equitable 2023 Farm Bill. SNAP and NAP were both created to address hunger and nutrition by providing monthly nutrition aid to beneficiaries, but Puerto Rico’s NAP is a restrictive, capped block grant which cannot change regardless of the need in the island. For Puerto Rico to be included in SNAP, the 2023 Farm Bill must include language authorizing participation in the program.

SNAP would bring greater nutritional equity to Puerto Rico, would bring immediate nutrition aid in times of disaster, and would provide economic benefits to help lift families, the elderly and children out of poverty. Now is the time to emphasize the urgency of this transition from NAP to SNAP as we advocate for the five-year reauthorization of the Farm Bill.

Please visit the Bread website to learn more and to learn how to advocate on this issue.  

Angelique Walker-Smith is senior associate for Pan-African and Orthodox Church engagement at Bread for the World.

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