Things That Matter

These Surprising Facts Will Explain Why Latinos Ought To Celebrate Juneteenth

Every year, June 19 marks the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas in 1865. The holiday has come to mean so much more, and now stands as a symbolic commemoration of the liberation of all enslaved African Americans in what used to be the Confederate States of America and is now the United States. June 19 is a cause for celebration, of course, but also an opportunity to question how far civil liberties for Black communities and other people of color have truly come. This is similar to the controversies in Latin America when it comes to celebrating various independence days. For example, did Independence Day in Mexico, which is celebrated on September 16, really mean something for indigenous communities that still live precariously and are seen as an ethnic minority? Or even still, should Latin Americans celebrate Columbus Day even if it was the beginning of brutal and unfair processes of colonization? History is a tricky beast: it is defined by wars and power struggles, and as such, holidays should always be questioned.

So Juneteenth is not short of controversy when it comes to defining its true power as a source of pride. It is common to read reports of the huge inequalities that still permeate everyday life in the United States in areas such as education, job opportunities and fairness in law enforcement. It is sadly common to see videos of police officers abusing young black men and women, sometimes to deadly extremes. Similarly, university education is a far away dream for many Black young people and for people of color in general.

Juneteenth is about love and sorrow, the terrible past and a promising future. For these reasons, Juneteenth has gained renewed importance today, when communities and historians are questioning whether the promise of freedom for African Americans was really fulfilled or if there are still miles to go to attain real equality and justice.

1. Does Juneteenth truly count as Independence Day?

Juneteenth is also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day. Celebrations include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation and of the works of African-American literary giants such as Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou. But the question remains: is July 4th a celebration for all Americans, or should Juneteenth be seen as the realization of the American Enlightenment ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity?

2. Some argue that Juneteenth is under-appreciated and needs to be a bigger deal.

Some Twitter users bring up interesting debates regarding the celebration, claiming that young Black people should celebrate that first and then July 4th. A big part of African American identity has to do with honoring the ancestors, and Juneteenth is a great opportunity to reflect upon their many tribulations.

Let that sink in: for almost nine decades millions of human beings were enslaved, even if the United States had gained its independence. Insta is full of interesting historical facts that are like una cubetada de agua fria, a wake up call that needs to be listed too. BTW, these colors are the Pan-African flag!

4. Following 1865: 89 more years of segregation.

Some social media users remind us that the abolition of slavery did not bring equality. It was another 89 years before the civil rights movement gained traction and started to right the wrong of segregation. Yes, Black men and women were “free”, but not free to live where, how and when they wished. MLK and Rosa Parks were still a few decades away.

5. Juneteenth is an opportunity to ask ourselves: what is America?

Particularly in the current political climate, full of divisive opinions, Juneteenth is a good opportunity to question the role of minorities in the country. Artist Del Starr echoes the now legendary video by Childish Gambino in which he enacts several key and often traumatic events of recent Black history.

6. Guess what? Not all states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday.

It might seem crazy, but the states of Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota do not recognize the date. The first one to recognize it was Texas in 1980. In other states, it is either a state holiday or a day of observance. It is not a federal holiday, however.

7. Juneteenth works to question and quash stereotypes.

Wow, this is a powerful, assertive and totally true statement. For years, African Americans worked for free and today stereotypes harm their communities, but at the same time, job and educational opportunities are statistically lower for Black populations. That is just not OK.

8. Juneteenth is an opportunity to celebrate African heritage!

African culture has influenced music, fashion and the arts in the United States and the whole continent for centuries. Juneteenth has been used as an opportunity to showcase African roots. Do you know what a dashiki is? Well, it is a gorgeous roomy shirt from West Africa. Get one and celebrate Juneteenth, whatever your ethnicity is.

9. Juneteenth is a way to express your identity and not follow others como borrego.

We love this photoshoot of Afro-beauty. The traditional red, black, yellow and green combination looks amazing. Salud for more teenagers like her who are proud of their heritage. Diversity is to be celebrated rather than hidden.

10. City councils are getting it: this needs to be a loud, proud celebration.

Atlanta is echando la casa por la ventana from June 14-16. We encourage you to find what your local council is doing and get your pride up and running!

11. Black politicians are a testament to the progress that has been made.

Black men and women who have been elected into a position of power have made sure that Black identity is celebrated. Byron Brown, Buffalo’s first African American mayor, raised the Pan-African flag as part of the Juneteenth Festival.

12. Cultural institutions also work as a hub for all things Juneteenth.

Check your local museum’s webpage for Juneteenth events. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, for example, is hosting an incredible festival. No te lo puedes perder.

13. A happy coincidence: Pride Month and Juneteenth go hand in hand!

In one of those cases in which the stars align, Juneteenth and Pride Month are so close together that Black queers have taken it as an opportunity to double their celebration of pride. It is ALWAYS a good idea to scream to the world: “This is who we are and we love it!”

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