Hispanic Heritage Contest Winners
Hispanic Heritage Month Essay Contest 9th - 12th Grade Winners

The Hon. Lissette G. Fernández, Peekskill City Court Judge and Luis Segarra, Principal & CFO, The Crescent Companies & Peekskill Rotary Club  sponsored the 1st Annual National Hispanic Heritage Month Student Essay Contest.

Peekskill Rotary’s National Hispanic Heritage Month Student Essay Contest was open to all students enrolled in the Peekskill City School District in grades 4th-12th. Students submitted a written essay describing what this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month theme – “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope”– meant to them. Five winners were selected and awarded a $100.00 scholarship.

9th - 12th Grade Winners

Jasmine Oliva

Peekskill High School: 9th Grade

Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage month is very important to the Hispanic/Latin culture and its people mainly because Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala. Honduras and Nicaragua won their independence from Spain on September 15. Hispanic Heritage before only lasted a week and later on turned into a month. Hispanic Heritage month always starts on September 15 and ends on October 1 5.

I know Hispanic Heritage month is important to my dad because it's when he can teach my siblings and I about how he grew up in poverty in El Salvador. My father used to tell me it's a blessing being Hispanic not only because it runs in our blood, but because our ancestors and the war they won to give their people independence. My father immigrated to America in 2003 in a group. My father came here illegally in hope for a fresh start and in hope for a better life so he can support his mother. My father came here in search of work, he had no idea he would have 5 kids with my mother. My morn was brought to America when she was only 13 years of age. My grandpa and grandma enrolled my mother into school. My mother picked on English really easily because her teachers taught her really well. My morn couldn't finish school because she had my sister when she was 15 and later on had me when she was 19. My mom had dreams like everyone else she wanted to go to the Navy and go to college. My mother dedicated her life to my sister and I because she wanted to give us what she didn't receive when she was younger, she later met my stepfather after she was able to get out of her toxic relationship. My morn later then had my 3 other siblings. My morn always said that if I had a dream to follow it because she couldn't and to never forget where I came from. My morn and dad dedicated their lives to my siblings and I so we can go to college and our education. On a trip my father took us on he told us stories about when he grew up, he told me and my siblings that he was too broke to afford food sometimes and his morn told him to lay on his stomach, so he doesn't feel it. My father also said that people in the town never thought that his mother’s kids would ever be where they are now. My sister Rosio tries to educate my siblings and I about racism and how some Hispanics are treated in America. She never fails to show us how we need to rise up and show Americans that we deserve to be here just as much as they do, not only because my parents sacrificed their lives to give us what they didn't have but because I deserve to be here. I try to teach my siblings to embrace their Hispanic culture because it's who we are, and they shouldn't be embarrassed about it or scared to show where they come from. While I was growing up, I remember someone said "I'm gonna call ICE on your dad" and I got scared because I couldn't imagine a life where my dad wasn't in it.

In conclusion Hispanic Heritage month means A LOT to my parents because it reminds them of the life they hoped for and why they came here. My dad did receiver hate because he's Hispanic but that never dragged him down, that only motivated him to keep going. My dad never forgot why he came to America. He never forgot where he came from and how he grew up in poverty. My siblings and I are proud to say we are Hispanics.

Gabriel Berger

Peekskill High School: 12th Grade

Hope Seems Fleeting

This Hispanic Heritage Month, the theme is "Hope". Now, I can't speak to being Hispanic in America; I'm white, but from an outsider's point-of-view, I can tell that sometimes it feels like there is little hope to go around for Hispanics. Hope feels fleeting, and hard to grasp.

With the election of Donald Trump in 2016, the fervor of hatred for Hispanic Immigrants came to a head. People blamed Hispanics for stealing jobs, spreading disease, and committing violent crimes. Trump's election further solidified the idea that racism was fine to be shared out in the open, and the country is still reeling from it, unsure of what the long-term effects will be.

Last year, when people took to the streets, it began a racial awakening of America. The plight of African Americans and any other racial minority really came to the forefront. Sadly, that has died down.

When Trump separated children from their families and put them in cages, there was an uproar. Rightfully so too. Crossing the border is only a misdemeanor. But now, under President Biden's administration, the number of children being detained at the border has increased, rather than ended entirely.

And many times, it is hard for Hispanics to advocate for themselves. The constant threat of deportation, no matter your immigration status, hangs over the heads of all. ICE trucks come through neighborhoods, including Peekskill, like the Gestapo of Nazi Germany. I could feel the fear amongst my classmates heighten whenever anti-immigrant rhetoric rose. It's a fear that I will never experience, but no one should experience it.

And while the US has wronged Hispanics within its borders, it spreads far beyond them. Interfering in Latin America is an American tradition. From the Monroe Doctrine of 1820 declaring that Latin America is under American jurisdiction, to the Spanish-American War of 1898, and finally to what is fueling the current immigration surge: interfering in democratically held elections in said countries.

Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic (to name a few) were all countries that elected leaders that had leftist leanings during the Cold War. The US backed coups to overthrow these governments and put in place dictatorships that were friendly to the US. Not only did these further impoverish an already impoverished region, it led to atrocities being committed. Most notably, the Death Squads of El Salvador would enforce the regime change, and even murdered American Missionaries in 1980. These horrific conditions likely led to the rise in crime in those countries, so many fled to the US, where the streets are supposedly (according to rhetoric) paved with gold. Voting Rights are also under threat in states like Texas, Florida and Georgia, and these laws will disproportionately harm black and brown people, including Hispanics, no matter their political alignment.

As I list all this, it seems like there is no hope. But there is. The racial awakening that came from the Black Lives Matter protests last year has led to a reexamination of US History, seeing it for what is left out of history books. Things like the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, the genocide of Native Americans, and the interventions in Latin American countries are all coming to light. And while there is pushback. more and more people are realizing that it isn't the fault of the underclasses in the country, but of the government itself.

And when enough realize it, then hope will flourish. Hispanics will need not live in fear. Hope will be abundant.

We just need to fight for it.