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Caribbean Heritage Month.

As someone who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, I was thrilled to find out about Caribbean Heritage Month. Though we moved away when I was 7, I will always treasure my Puerto Rican heritage, as well as my father’s Dominican cultural traditions. The food, the music, the island itself - it’s something I continue to grow up with till this day. What I found strange, though, was the lack of awareness that the month itself had. I had no idea it existed; my friends had no idea, and users online had no idea. Keeping that in mind, I thought I could share some important facts and history behind Caribbean Heritage Month.

Caribbean's have contributed to the growth of the United States since the early 1900’s, when they were able to migrate easily from their home country. Since the U.S. had direct control over these islands, immigration for work and housing was not a problem. These workers usually left due to recruitment and employment by U.S. companies, but some were fleeing the economic and political instability they were in. These migrants worked in all kinds of work, such as craftsmanship, poetry, medicine, inventing, and other individuals that added greatly to different professional spheres in the nation. National Caribbean American Month was formed to honor these talented individuals and the positive relations the country has built with the Caribbean.

As time passed, more and more Caribbean's were able to make their mark on society and international culture. Some of these include Celia Cruz — known for creating astounding salsa music, the famous baseball player Robert Clemente, and several other individuals who managed to leave a mark on U.S. history. The month was founded by Dr. Claire Nelson was celebrated across the nation for the first time by the Institute of Caribbean Studies in 2000. Its purpose was simple - to recognize the Caribbean success and growth. However, the move to officially declare June as National Caribbean American Month started in 2004 when a legislative bill was passed by Congresswoman Barbara Lee. The resolution was made official in 2006 when President George W. Bush signed the proclamation, naming June as National Caribbean American Month. Every year, June is celebrated as the official Caribbean Heritage Month.

I am proud to see my Puerto Rican culture and traditions be honored, but there are many countries included into this month as well. These countries include: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. It is important to be inclusive of people from these places and take into notice their traditions - just because we might not think a person is labeled as “Caribbean” it is unacceptable to invalidate their heritage.

The whole point of this month is to recognize the hard work and dedication Caribbean's have as a culture, as well as their delicious cuisine, traditional music, and important heritage. Here are 4 things you can do to celebrate this recognition month!

Read more about the history of Caribbean cultures

There are countless countries and territories with unique cultural traditions. Go online, watch a documentary on a specific type of music, instrument, or dance. Educate yourself about the history behind the month, and the history behind the relations between the United States and Caribbean countries/territories.

Cook a Caribbean Dish

Go online and find a recipe! It could be tostones and alcapurrias from Puerto Rico, or sancocho from the Dominican Republic. It’s up to you - but ensure you know the origins of the dish, where it came from, and the impact it had on that Caribbean country/territory. If you’re really feeling up to it, make the dish from scratch and enjoy!

Indulge in Caribbean music

We can all spice up our listening palette once in a while; what better way to do it this month than with some Caribbean music? Merengue, reggaeton, salsa… There are many different genres to choose from. You can listen to some newer reggaeton by Daddy Yankee and Bad Bunny, or vibe to some classics by Bob Marley and Gloria Estefan. Depends on what you’re in the mood for.

Learn, celebrate, and accept

The most important part of this month is the recognition and celebration of Caribbean past and present accomplishments. Support Caribbean small business owners, restaurants, and social media accounts. Read and repost posts regarding information related to the month and shoutout Caribbean social media personas. If your friends don’t know about the history behind this month, tell them about it. If you have the time, post about. Every small mention helps recognize the hard-working Caribbean people.

Written by Andrea Mercado

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