Claudio Coria is the Chief of Staff of the Arizona Department of Education.
As many of you know, my family immigrated to the U.S. when I was six years old. Like so many other immigrants, we came to the United States to pursue the American Dream - a journey marked with challenges and blessings.
Arriving in a new country, not knowing the language and customs is extremely difficult; I don't know how my parents did it in those early days. Getting my sister, brother, and I into school was also a significant obstacle. Schools would deny our enrollment or would place barriers by demanding unnecessary paperwork.
My parents persisted, and with the help of a family connection, my siblings and I eventually got into school.
I found success because of our public school system and the many caring educators who believed in me and provided ample opportunities to learn and grow. Because of that, it was always in my mind and heart to give back in some meaningful way, and in 1996 I became a certified teacher in the Roosevelt School District. Teaching was challenging, but I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my professional life. For the past 25 years, I have worked as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and district leader before serving as Chief of Staff for the Department. I feel incredibly blessed to work with our ADE team to help children and educators across the state.
I am sharing this communication with you now because we are in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month. And my story is just one of the many unique stories that shape the Latinx experience in the United States.
Each year the United States celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 through October 16. It celebrates the contributions, culture, and history of American citizens whose ancestors come from Spain, Central, South America, and the Caribbean. The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week and was expanded to a month and enacted into law in 1988.
This timeframe is unlike many other heritage months, but it holds a unique meaning. Several Latin American countries celebrate their independence during this timeframe. Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua all celebrate their independence on September 15. And Mexico celebrates Independence Day on September 16.
When I first arrived in Arizona, the state and the country was very different. However, as of 2016, the total U.S. Latinx population represented 17.3 % of the total U.S. population. Currently, Latinos and Latinas represent the single largest minority group in the country. And while Hispanics in the U.S. derive from all over Latin America, 63% are of Mexican origin. The American Latinx population is growing, and by 2060 it is projected that it will reach about 119 million or just over 28 % of the entire U.S. demographic.
The growing community of Latinos in the U.S. is another example of this country's rich history of immigration. My family came here to pursue the American Dream like many before us, and the many that followed us. Recognizing and celebrating the diverse identities within the U.S. Latino community builds richer connections. And, I'm grateful that Hispanic Heritage Month allows us that opportunity to explore identities, cultures, and customs beyond those we hold dear. To join me in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, I'm sharing a list of resources for you to use with your students, family, and peers.