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Ifirst learned to speak Spanish when I was 4. I lived in Bogota Colombia at the time where my dad worked for the U.S. State Department. We left Colombia for other assignments and by the time I was 19, I had forgotten most of the Spanish I'd learned. At 19, though, I began volunteer work as a missionary in the immigrant communities of West Texas. With a bit of study and practice, the accent and the language I'd learned as a child came back to me. I felt at home in Spanish-speaking Texas.

I suppose, in part, because of that foundational experience, Spanish Heritage month feels to me like a reason to celebrate. Living in the US for the last 30 years, I've cultivated friendships and stayed connected to the Latino experience in this country. I've even managed a few trips for a more immersive experience. My wife has been a trainer for the BYU Men's Soccer team for 25 years, now. When our kids were young, we toured with the team several times in Latin America. This picture was taken in Santiago Chile.

Santiago Chile 

Our youngest boy was disappointed with the experience, mostly because it wasn't his turn to carry the disposable camera. Here are the same two boys at the Pyramid of the Sun near Mexico City.

Pyramid of the Sun

I'm afraid the boys carried light sabers most everywhere they went in those days.. you know, as a... safety precaution.

I find that respect for, and appreciation of a culture other than your own usually rests on personal connections—people you know, stories you've loved, places you've been. I love the way that libraries provide cross-cultural connections. They bring people together within a community that might not otherwise interact. They highlight and call attention to experiences outside the dominant local culture. They help people encounter stories from lives very different from their own. Libraries also allow more substantive cultural research. Some friends of mine at NewsBank put together a collection called Hispanic Life in America, that illustrates this role. As an eLearning platform for the public sector, Niche Academy helps libraries put their own cultural programs online.

Libraries and community centers are, in my view, among our best hopes for bridges across cultural divides. Our social divisions seem to have grown wider in recent years. I believe this is a trend we can and must reverse. I love the way so many libraries provide tone-setting DEI training as part of critical public sector continuing education efforts. I am hopeful of the broad influence these efforts can have. And in that hope, I wish you a happy Hispanic Heritage month, Sep 15 - Oct 15. ¡Celebrámonos juntos!

Jared Oates

Jared comes to Niche Academy with a love for teaching and learning. He's a self-taught software engineer and graduated from college with two teaching-emphasis degrees. He finds endless fascination in the ways that new technology changes lives and reshapes the world around him.

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