A celebration of Hispanic Heritage

In the United States, Hispanic Heritage Month–which runs from September 15 to October 15–is a time to celebrate the vibrant cultures and contributions of Hispanic and Latino communities in the US. Schools and organizations may learn about American Latino stories, inspiring Hispanic individuals, or have students compare and learn about different cultural holidays.

Despite attempts to celebrate the many achievements and contributions of Hispanics, many individuals are still confused about the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino/Latina/Latine/Latinx.” These terms are often used interchangeably, but they refer to different aspects of identity:

  • Hispanic: The term “Hispanic” primarily relates to a person’s cultural and linguistic ties to Spain or Spanish-speaking countries. It encompasses individuals from Spanish-speaking regions, including Spain itself, as well as countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where Spanish is the dominant language.
  • Latino/Latina/Latine/Latinx: These terms refer to individuals who are from or have roots in Latin America. This category includes people from Spanish-speaking countries as well as Portuguese-speaking Brazil and even regions where indigenous languages are spoken. It emphasizes the geographical origin rather than the language.

Understanding these distinctions is essential for acknowledging the diversity within this community, and avoiding pitfalls when you use these terms in your classroom and with your students.

The U.S. Hispanic population reached 63.6 million in 2022. However, Hispanics are often perceived as a homogeneous group, when in fact there is great racial and cultural diversity. “Hispanic heritage” includes a diverse range of cultures, nationalities, histories, and identities. Although the term has been used to influence positive change, many stories have also been erased and the term has been widely criticized. If you want to learn more about when the term Hispanic started to be used in the US, check out this great article.

Here are a few ideas to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month inside and outside the classroom:

  • Incorporate Common Sense Media resources in your classroom that delve into the histories, traditions, and challenges faced by Hispanic and Latino communities. This can provide valuable insights into their experiences and contributions.
  • Consider learning Spanish or Portuguese to better understand the linguistic aspects of the culture. Language is a gateway to connecting with Hispanic and Latino communities on a deeper level.
  • Connect with Hispanic and Latino community organizations in your area.  These groups often organize informative discussions, workshops, and community service events during Hispanic Heritage Month.
  • Support Hispanic and Latino-owned businesses. Show your support by shopping at Hispanic and Latino-owned businesses, which are an integral part of local economies.

By celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, we can honor the rich tapestry of these cultures while fostering cultural appreciation, respect, and awareness in our communities. Learning more about Hispanic and Latino communities opens doors to meaningful connections and a deeper appreciation of their contributions to society.

Photo by Dnessa Franklin

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