What is Hispanic Heritage Month? Why does it matter?
On September 15th, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month until October 15th by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of those whose families and ancestors are from Latin America.
It originally started as "Hispanic Heritage Week" in 1968 and later expanded to a month-long celebration in 1988 with the help of a then intern, Robert J. Lopez. The celebration starts on September 15th as a nod to the Independence Days of El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, followed by Mexico's on the 16th and Chile's on the 18th.
Hispanic Heritage Month Fun Facts
• "Hispanic" refers to those of "Spanish-speaking countries", Latino/Latina/Latinx/Latine refers to those of "Latin American Origins"
• Prior to the popularity of "Hispanic/Latino", "____-American" or "Spanish" was often used.
• The growing popularity and discourse around the use of "Latinx" and now "Latine" was started by women and transgender rights activists in the 1970's and 1980's in Latin America. Puerto Rican and Chicanx scholars brought the term to the US where it was first mentioned online in the early 2000s.
• Liquid-fuel rocket engines, submarines, birth control, and color TV are just a few of the many important inventions made by Latin Americans!
• Latin Americans make up one of the fastest-growing, multiracial groups in the United States according to the 2020 US Census
• The Mexican flag's crest motif is nearly 2,000 years old and originally featured a snake holding the Atl-Tlachinolli, or "water-scorched earth", which was a symbol for war.
• Los Angeles has the highest population of Mexicans outside of Mexico! The second largest population of Hispanics in Los Angeles are Salvadoran-Americans, where the largest population of Salvadorans live outside of El Salvador.
Do's & Don'ts
So, what can you do to celebrate? Easy! Supporting Latinx-owned businesses and organizations is probably the easiest and best way to show your enthusiasm and dedication to the community.
What shouldn't you do? Singling out your hispanic peers, exercising cultural appropriation/ignoring cultural sensitivities (i.e. wearing a sombrero and hosting a "taco party"), and pandering to the community using poorly researched phrases or bad "spanglish". While these may seem obvious, these are real-world examples many Latin Americans tolerate every year! Often, it isn't done with malice in mind, but it can be very demoralizing and often offensive to those it's intended to celebrate.