FAYETTEVILLE, Ark — As Hispanic Heritage month kicks off across the country, many locals are celebrating the rich Hispanic culture and growth of the community in Northwest Arkansas.
Hispanic Heritage Month, began Sept.15 and ends Oct. 15, celebrations and events will highlight the struggles and triumphs of the past and present.
Despite the many cultural achievements, some say there is still more that needs to be done for the Hispanic community.
Myrna Olaya, a graduate student at the University of Arkansas, says this is a time for the community to celebrate and an opportunity to educate everyone on the multiple cultures and communities that make up the Hispanic population.
“Within the Hispanic LATINX population, we have so many countries coming from us from Europe to all of Latin America," said Myrna Olaya, Graduate Assistant for the U of A's Multicultural Center.
Data from the 2020 Census shows the Arkansas Hispanic community grew by 8.5% in the last 10 years and that in Northwest Arkansas the community saw significant growth as well. In Washington and Benton Counties, the Hispanic population grew by 90% combined.
“The community in Arkansas especially Northwest Arkansas has been changing. There are some improvements, but more work needs to be done," said margarita Solozano, Director of Hispanic Women's Organization of Arkansas.
Margarita Solozano with the Hispanic Women's Organization of Arkansas says when it comes to things like state legislation, she feels the Hispanic community is being left out.
“I don’t feel represented. Not in numbers, yes, we are a growing population," said Solozano.
Myrna Olaya addressed the lack of Spanish-speaking options for the community but says she's seeing improvements.
"I believe that Arkansas is doing a good job at starting to look and starting to see that need," said Olaya.
Solozano highlighted the small wins for the community, like Amelia Williams being elected to the Springdale City Council, but says it's not enough.
“One person doesn’t represent the entire community," said Solozano. "We need to feel that we belong, That we are represented."
Representation was a big part of what Solozano and Olaya spoke about with both women saying more representation gives hope and that they will continue to celebrate throughout the month.
The Hispanic Women's Organization will host its 21st annual conference on Oct. 8 that will focus on addressing issues in the local community surrounding topics like women, education, and politics.
For more information about the Hispanic Women's Organization of Arkansas or its mission, please click here.