We’re in the midst of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. And with all of the news swirling around us, we can all use a moment to pause and reflect.


The month "celebrates and recognizes the contributions Hispanic Americans have made to American society and culture and honors five of our Central American neighbors who celebrate their independence in September," according to the Library of Congress. It was originally just a week, marked by a proclamation from President Lyndon Johnson. It was expanded to the full month 20 years later, and every president since then has marked the occasion.


The United States is a country of immigrants. It’s a cliché at this point, but it’s also true. So many people in this nation — with the exception of Native Americans, of course — came from other countries to build their lives.


That’s a complicated history to live with. We comprise so many people, who came to the country in so many ways. Think of the horrific legacy of slavery, for example. And yet all of us, when it comes down to it, are Americans. We are all here. We all have voices. And we all create the country (and states and towns) that we all live in.


Some of us want to exclude or add footnotes. To call some folks real Americans and cast doubts on others. That’s nonsense, no matter what the president might say.


We welcome and celebrate the Hispanic community in our state towns. All of Kansas should, given that a bit more than 12% of our population is Hispanic or Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In other words, if you picked a group of 10 Kansans at random, at least one (and possibly two) would be part of the group. As our state grows and changes in years to come, we expect the community to expand in size and vibrancy.


That’s a good thing. Because otherwise, Kansas and so many other more rural states would see continued population decline and decay. We depend, just as the rest of the country does, on those with rich cultural heritage who choose to make their homes here.


We can’t ignore the bitterness and divisiveness around us this election season. But we all should unite to celebrate those who have strengthened our country with their presence — who, indeed, have become an integral part of the country.


Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!