Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

September 16, 2021

National Hispanic Heritage Month is an annual celebration to recognize the history and culture of Hispanic and Latinx Americans. First introduced in 1968, the commemoration kicked off on September 15 and continues through October 15.Although the observance has been celebrated for years, there is still work to be done for more inclusion, as Hispanic and Latinx populations are growing, making up 18% of the total U.S. population. With the 2020 U.S. Census reporting the amount of Latinxs who identified as white dropped from 53% in 2010 to about 20% in 2020, many agree that National Hispanic Heritage Month should amplify Black, indigenous and brown Hispanic and Latinx voices. We acknowledge how crucial it is to properly educate, listen and partake in conversations during this holiday and are excited to explore the observance’s history and a few ways to celebrate.

The History

  • Hispanic Heritage Month began as a week-long celebration when it was introduced by California Congressman George E. Brown in 1968. During the civil rights movement in the 1960s, the push to recognize the Hispanic community gained momentum, and awareness grew in the U.S.
  • On September 17, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first Hispanic Heritage Week presidential proclamation.
  • The kickoff date of Hispanic Heritage Month coincides with the anniversaries of national independence for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Each of these nations declared independence from Spain on Sept. 15, 1821. It’s important to note that Mexico celebrates its independence on Sept. 16, Chile on Sept. 18 and Belize on Sept. 21.
  • In 1987, Rep. Esteban Torres of California proposed to lengthen the week-long celebration to a 31-day period, saying that the nation could “properly observe and coordinate events and activities to celebrate Hispanic culture and achievement.” He wanted the public to learn of the heritage and legacy that includes artists, writers and leaders in business, government, science and more.
  • In 1988, a similar bill successfully passed Congress and was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, and in 1989, President George H.W. Bush declared the 31-day period as National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Observing Hispanic Heritage Month

It’s important to acknowledge Hispanic heritage throughout the year, but during the month-long commemoration, there are specific ways to celebrate in the workplace, with your family and friends, and in your community.

  • Learn the history and the stories. Education is key to growing more aware and appreciative of a culture, which is why we recommend diving into a new book to learn how Hispanic and Latinx people’s stories are shaping today’s culture. Here’s a helpful list crafted by self-identified Latinx booksellers to select your next read, and what a beautiful idea to include the entire family with these kids book suggestions. From picture books to middle grade stories, there’s something to help shape children’s understanding and knowledge at any age.
  • Partner with an organization to make impact. Learning more about Latinx culture is beneficial, but if you’re ready to take action, here’s a list of Hispanic and Latinx organizations you can partner with to support and empower the community.
  • Watch movies created by and for Latinxs. Relax and enjoy a film by a Latinx filmmaker like Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth or The Shape of Water. Make it a family movie night with a kid-friendly movie like Coco, the animated film inspired by the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead.
  • Cook a classic Latin American dish. Whether or not you hail from a Latinx nation, you can join in the celebration with a meal that honors the tradition. Try cooking machaca, a traditional Mexican favorite. Find a recipe for Honduran baleadas, or get creative with a Spanish paella. Enjoy a meal with your coworkers, family or friends and discuss the rich heritage behind the cuisine.
  • Attend a cultural fair or museum with Hispanic and Latinx culture. A quick internet search will tell you if there are any festivals in your area in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month. Or, you might prefer a visit to a museum to take in the culture, like the National Museum of Mexican Art or the Smithsonian Latino Center. There are many online exhibits as well to view the beauty and rich culture all from your home.

However you choose to honor National Hispanic Heritage Month, what’s most important is that all Americans recognize the deep culture, value and importance of the Hispanic and Latinx community, and remember that it doesn’t end with a specific calendar date.

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