National Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating Hispanic Heroes
National Hispanic Heritage Month was designated by the U.S. government as a period of time to reflect on, and recognize, the contributions of Latinos of different nationalities and backgrounds to American culture as a whole. It honors the diversity of Latino Americans by celebrating our diverse cultures and histories by acknowledging that Latino people come from many different parts of the world; Europe (Spain), Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. It is celebrated from September 15th to October 15th.
For some history, the celebration was originally established in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson and was initially created as a week-long observation of Latin-American culture. In 1988, President Ronald Regan expanded the week to an entire month, covering the period from September 15th to October 15th. The expansion was signed into law in on August 17, 1988; giving us what is now an official National Hispanic Heritage Month.
It may seem a little funny to start the month-long observation mid-September, but the date of September 15th was chosen with good reason. The September 15th date is significant because it is the day of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16th and September 18th, respectively.
In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, I’ll be highlighting a few of my favorite superheroes of Latin-American descent that have made significant contributions to the diversity of comic books. But before I do so I would like to thank their creators for their commitment to inclusion in comics; Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore (All-New Ghost Rider), Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta (America Chavez), and last but not least Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli (Ultimate Spider-Man).
Ghost Rider: Robbie Reyes
Anyone, and everyone, that follows me on Twitter knows that I am currently obsessed with the all-new version of Ghost Rider. It was his appearance on the Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD television show that originally brought the character to my attention. I knew that there was a new version of Ghost Rider in the comics, but since I have never been a fan of the original Ghost Rider(s), I didn’t pay any attention to the character.
— Juan Maldonado, M.S. (@MindfulJuan) September 15, 2017
It wasn’t until I saw Gabriel Luna’s portrayal of Robbie Reyes on screen, that I realized that the new Ghost Rider was Chicano, and instead of a motorcycle, Robbie drives a 1969 Dodge Charger.
This is the power of representation; thanks to a Latino Ghost Rider presented on screen, the character has a new enthusiastic fan.
The character’s appearance in season four of Agents of SHIELD is significant because he is the first major Latino superhero to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). There have been other super-powered individuals on the show of Latino descent, one being a lesser known character from the comics (Yo-yo Rodriguez), and the other a character entirely made up of Agents of SHIELD (Joey Gutierrez). Neither of those characters has the name recognition of a character like Ghost Rider.
The All-New Ghost Rider (Robbie Reyes) was co-created by Felipe Smith, who was raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Tradd Moore who came up with the character design. Robbie Reyes is an orphaned teenager who balances school, his part-time job as a mechanic and caring for his younger brother, Gabe who is developmentally disabled. In attempting to obtain a large sum of money from a street race, Robbie gets killed by mercenaries loyal to Mr. Hyde. He is immediately possessed by a spirit, who is later revealed to be his dead Uncle Eli, bringing him back to life to exact revenge on those who killed him.
Unfortunately, the Robbie Reyes version of Ghost Rider is not very active in the comics at the moment. However, with the new Generations storylines that Marvel will be putting out soon, it is my hope that they will bring back the character with a vengeance.
Miss America: America Chavez
America Chavez has the distinction of being Marvel’s first Latin-American LGTBQ character to star in her very own series. Created by Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta in 2011, the helm of America’s solo series was turned over to Latin-American LGTBQ writer Gabby Rivera. This is significant with regard to inclusion and representation because it allows for a person from a Latin-American and LGTBQ background to tell stories about characters that share the same experiences.
America Chavez is actually the second character to use the moniker “Miss America.” The original Miss America hails from the Golden Age of comics. Madeline Joyce (the original Miss America) had superhuman strength and the power of flight and fought Nazis alongside Captain America and Bucky. Much like her Golden Age predecessor, America Chavez possesses superhuman strength and the power of flight. However, she is also able to move with superhuman speed and can punch/kick holes, in reality, allowing her to travel between dimensions and the multiverse. Talk about a powerful Latin influence in the Marvel Universe.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Miles Morales is perhaps the most well-known of the three characters profiled in this article as he is the Spider-Man from Marvel’s Ultimate Universe. As with Peter Parker, Miles Morales is a native New Yorker but hails from Brooklyn instead of Queens. His parents are African American (father) and Puerto Rican (mother), giving him the cool distinction of being one of Marvel’s multi-cultural characters.
The Miles Morales version of Spider-Man joined the main Marvel Universe after the events of the Secret Wars where Marvel Multiverse was destroyed and only one universe was left alive. He, and an older Peter Parker, now share the Spider-Man name in the same universe. Although, it seems that Parker tends to deal with global threats, whereas Miles has taken to “friendly neighborhood” Spider-Man role. Like Parker, Miles has all the same powers that the previous wall-crawler had before him. Fan reaction to Miles was initially mixed, with some fan praising Marvel for their efforts to be more inclusive and diverse in character creation while others calling it an attempt to be politically correct. The negative reaction to Parker’s replacement by a multi-cultural character inspired the Washington Post to run an article titled “Sorry, Peter Parker. The response to the black Spider-Man shows why we need one”.
The article mentioned above ran in August 2011, sadly six years later people still don’t understand why representation, inclusion, and diversity are important. This is why taking time to observe different cultures within the United States is important, whether it’s National Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month, Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, etc., it is important to not only acknowledge our diversity as a country but to celebrate it. To quote Lena Waithe’s recent victory speech at the Emmy’s “The things that make us different, those are our superpowers. Every day when you walk out the door, put on your imaginary cape and go out and conquer the world because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it.”