Hispanic Heritage Month, which spans from September 15 to October 15, celebrates the achievements and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans.
What’s the history behind Hispanic Heritage Month?
According to hispanicheritagemonth.gov, “The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.”
Why does Hispanic Heritage Month occur in September and October?
According to the same article, Hispanic Heritage Month spans September and October to encompass numerous historically-significant days. The first day, September 15, is significant because it is the day of independence for these Latin American countries: Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Costa Rica. Mexico celebrates its independence on September 16, and Chile on September 18. Columbus Day and Día de la Raza both occur on October 12.
A today.com article by Stephanie King illustrates how Columbus Day is–and isn’t–celebrated in Hispanic countries. “Columbus Day happens to fall during Hispanic Heritage Month, but instead of honoring the controversial explorer, Spanish-speaking countries celebrate “Día de la Raza” or “Day of the Race” on Oct. 12. This holiday, which bookends Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S., recognizes the blend of indigenous and European or mestizo heritage across Spanish-speaking countries.”
Learn more about the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans
You’ve probably heard about Brown v. Board of Education, but have you heard about Mendez v. Westminster? Read the article above to learn more about this ground-breaking case that led to the desegregation of Mexican Americans in California schools and the eventual outlawing of all school segregation in California.
Check out this biography of 20 outstanding Hispanic and Latino Americans by Juan Felipe Herrara. Learn about Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, actress Rita Moreno, and more.
“LATINO AMERICANS is the first major documentary series for television to chronicle the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos, who have helped shape North America over the last 500-plus years and have become, with more than 50 million people, the largest minority group in the U.S.” (PBS, 2013).
Hispanic Heritage Month Resources
Code Switch is an NPR podcast hosted by journalists of color discussing how race affects every aspect of American culture and society.
Check out some of the episodes surrounding Hispanic and Latino identity:
“Laura E. Gomez, a leading expert on race in America, argues that it is only recently that Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, Central Americans, and others are seeing themselves (and are being seen by others) under the banner of a cohesive racial identity. And the catalyst for this emergent identity, she argues, has been the ferocity of anti-Latino racism. In a bold effort to reframe our often-confused discussions over the Latinx generation, Gomez argues that everything from… toxic rhetoric and anti-immigrant laws like Arizona’s SB1070 to DACA and sanctuary cities have indelibly changed the way race functions in this country. Part history, part guide for the future, Inventing Latinos argues that all Americans must grapple with Latinos’ dynamic identity–an identity that is impacting everything we think we know about race in America.” (The New Press, 2020).
“When Xiomara Batista, who pours all her frustrations and passion into poetry, is invited to join the school slam poetry club, she struggles with her mother’s expectations and her need to be heard.”
“No one had ever suggested to Oscar, Cristian, Luis, or Lorenzo that they might amount to much – but two inspiring science teachers had convinced these impoverished, undocumented kids from [Arizona] who had never even seen the ocean that they should try to build an underwater robot.”
And they did build that robot- which ended up winning the Marine Advanced Technology Education Robotics Competition, beating some of the best engineers in the world.
But life doesn’t stay so idyllic for these 4 teens- after graduating from high school, they face many challenges: the threat (and reality) of deportation, eviction, and the cost of higher education.
Check out these children and teen books written by Hispanic and Latino authors.