Like everyone else, Latinos across America are busily preparing the Thanksgiving feast. Some of them may be doing it a little differently than traditional imagery and Norman Rockwell paintings.
Latinos may like their turkey spicy, or stuffed with beef, or maybe there is isn't a turkey at all, but rather some tamales. But any way to celebrate Thanksgiving is good, so long as you're celebrating with family.
Latinos are excluded from the traditional story of Thanksgiving, in which hardworking Pilgrims and friendly Native Americans come together to give at the end of a difficult but successful harvest. Here in this founding story, as in so many others, Latinos are treated as outsiders in the United States.
In truth, Latinos can trace their history back to earlier Thanksgivings than the one in Plymouth, much to the chagrin of many New Englanders. Texas and Florida both have their own historical Thanksgiving celebrations, each taking place years or decades earlier than that of the Pilgrims. That blend of Spanish and Native American culture is integral to both the reality and the identity of Latinos.
Of all the times of the year, Thanksgiving is one when we should thank Latinos in the United States, if for no other reason than that so much of the food we'll all be enjoying comes from the hard labor of farmworkers, who in this country are predominantly Latino.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 84 percent of farmworkers in the U.S. are Latinos, and the numbers of not just Mexicans, but also Puerto Ricans, Guatemalans and Hondurans are on the rise in the dairy industry today.
That can of evaporated milk you used for your pumpkin pie might have been processed by someone from Central America.
Or, possibly, your Thanksgiving had more of a Native American hand in it than you even suspected. More than a quarter of farmworkers in the United States come from indigenous Mexican populations, many of whom do not even speak Spanish.
My own grandfather put in his share of time in the fields of California before World War II came along and set him on a military career path. This year, I'll remember to be thankful for his toil, and I'll thank those who still work in the fields today.
It would be easy to think of Thanksgiving as another time to fight about the issues or tear each other about, but this is fundamentally a holiday commemorating the coming together of Americans.
For Latinos, this coming together is part of our history, but also our tomorrows.
So whether you're carving up a turkey this Thanksgiving, or serving up some fresh tamales, let's all be grateful for what we've been given this year, who has given it to us, and remember to pass the stuffing.
Jose Miguel Leyva is a freelance writer and journalist living in El Paso, Texas. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright Jose Miguel Leyva.
Photo: Flickr user Curt Gibbs, creative commons licensed.