Father Robert Oldershaw asks everyone to raise their hands to bless the banners for Hispanic Heritage Month. Photo by Mary Mumbrue

Community, civic and education leaders gathered at the home of Gina and Juan Carlos Ramirez on Sept. 15, as Father Robert Oldershaw blessed the banners that will be displayed along Dodge Avenue for the next month.

“Today, on this first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, we pay respect to the Ramirez family and to our partners in the City of Evanston, who have committed to the principles of inclusion and diversity. Gina and Juan Carlos are both Evanston Township High School graduates and have given so much to this community, as parent leaders in School District 65 and ETHS when their children were there, as business leaders, and as leaders at St. Nicholas Church,” said Elena Garcia, Executive Director of Latino Resources, which sponsored the event.

Father Oldershaw recalled the heroes of Mexican independence and said, “We remember all in every place who struggle for freedom throughout the world.” He spoke of the “richness that Hispanic culture brings to our homes, our schools, our community.” He blessed the banners as “silent sentinels” on Dodge Avenue, blessed Evanston as “one community.”

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl read a proclamation that Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month in Evanston. “Celebrating Hispanic culture makes a more diverse, richer society for all,” she said.

Ms. Ramirez thanked everyone for attending the ceremony. “Mi casa es su casa – and that’s how I feel in Evanston. We came here in the late 1970s and always felt welcome. … We are going to work to make it better – never a step back.”

“Viva Evanston,” said Father Oldershaw. “Viva la casa Ramirez.”

The national observance of Latino and Hispanic culture began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on Sept. 15 and ending on Oct. 15.