Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month. It is a month to celebrate the history, heritage, contributions and cultures of the ancestors and citizens of Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Under President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, Hispanic Heritage was celebrated for a week and was signed into law for a month under President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Sept. 15 was chosen for the monthly celebration’s beginning because it was the anniversary date of independence from Spain for several Latin American countries.

Decades ago, I took a Spanish course because we had new adult neighbors who only spoke Spanish. I did not speak Spanish. The adults and I relied on their young son to translate for us.

Approximately a week ago, I sat in a restaurant’s outside area waiting for my takeout order. Two women came into the area and sat down at a table near me. The older woman was carrying a baby – at least I assumed it was a baby. The woman was carrying a small blanket wrapped around a form inside.

After getting up and picking up my order, I faced the two women as I returned to my table. The baby was no longer covered. I smiled at the two women and asked, “How old is your baby?” 

The younger woman said with an accent, “No English.”

Uh oh! I tried to get my old brain to remember how to ask the question in Spanish. I could only come up with the word “viejo” as I pointed to the baby.

The mother looked puzzled. Then I thought: Point at the baby and count in Spanish. “Uno, dos, tres, cuatro?” The younger woman gave a wide smile and said, “Uno. Uno mes.” Ah, success. We had communicated even though: “Yo no hablo español.”

When I got home, I looked up the word “viejo” and saw that it meant “old man.” Hmm.

No wonder the mother was puzzled.

Positive communications among humans is always a plus. 

Sept. 16 is Mexican Independence Day, the date that marks the beginning of Mexico’s war against Spain in 1810.

Although wars such as the Mexican War for Independence are successful, we must never forget that human lives are lost during wars.  This year, Sept. 16 is also POW/MIA Recognition Day, a day to remember prisoners of war and the missing In action. POW/MIA Recognition Day falls annually on the third Friday in September.

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...

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