Celebremos Juntos Hispanic Heritage Month!
The Hispanic community is America’s largest minority group, coming in at 60.6 million individuals of Hispanic descent in 2019. With this many citizens claiming this rich vibrant heritage, it’s only fitting to dedicate a month towards celebrating their culture’s impact on our way of life.
Hispanic culture and accomplishments have long been an integral part of American history. From music, to cuisine, to literature, to art, to science, and innovation, Hispanic influence has helped shape modern American life. Let’s learn more about how we can partake in Hispanic Heritage Month both joyfully and respectfully.
History of Hispanic Heritage Month
Hispanic Heritage Month was first celebrated in 1968. Originally known as Hispanic Heritage Week, it was created under President Johnson’s administration, but was later expanded under President Reagan to span an entire month in 1988. It took two separate bills to pass its expansion. The month celebrates “the histories, cultures, and contributions” of Americans with ancestry stemming from Spain, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and South America. This month is often celebrated with festivals, gatherings, and community conferences.
The month begins on September 15th and ends on October 15th. The start date of September 15th is a significant date; it's the anniversary of achieving independence from colonial forces for many Latin American countries, specifically, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras celebrate their independence on the day of September 15th. Several other countries achieved their independence in the days following.
While Hispanic Heritage Month typically refers to individuals of Latinx descent, it also commonly encompasses Mexican and Central American nationalities as well. Different institutions, from national cultural centers, to local community organizations, may differ on how they choose to celebrate, but share a common theme-- bringing the Hispanic community together!
How to Celebrate
Arguably, the best way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month is to commit to learning more about Hispanic culture and achievements. You can dive deeper in Hispanic history in America through books, documentaries, online archives, museum exhibits, and more! One great resource is the PBS film, Latino Americans. This six-hour documentary in parts explores in detail the various facets of Hispanic American life over the past 500 years. If you want a more brief overview of the history, PBS has also created a comprehensive timeline of events based on that same filme, here.
For those who are more literary, there are plenty of amazing works of prose and poetry by Hispanic authors. The New York Times, list several ground-breaking recent releases to pick up, including “The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo and “PostColonial Love Poem” by Natalie Diaz, both of which were published within the past five years. There are also more established works, such as…
“The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisnero
“One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
“How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents” by Julia Alvarez
“Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan
“Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
You can’t go wrong with picking up a good book, and while many of the listed works may be fiction, they accomplish the difficult task of expressing Hispanic American experiences and perspectives in an engaging and immersive manner.
Additionally, learning doesn’t stop at history. Whether you picked up some Spanish in high school or you have never taken a class, there is no time like the present to learn a few key phrases! Duolingo, Babbel, and Pimsleur are the top three language learning apps for Spanish currently. Of course, many different languages and dialects are spoken across Hispanic cultures, so pursue the one that appeals to you.
Hispanic cultures are rich with fun and meaningful activities to partake in with your community. A universal way to connect with others is through food. Make a Hispanic dish that you have been meaning to try or cozy up with some of the classics, like pupusas, ceviche, empanadas, and other delicious foods. Cooking is always more fun with friends, so invite a few guests to help prep and enjoy! And, if cooking isn’t your thing, try supporting a local Hispanic-owned restaurant. Here is a list of some found in Blacksburg.
On a similar note, you can purchase some fun decor items, apparel, and other goods from Hispanic-owned small businesses. Check your local business directories or shop online from small sellers, like these shops on Etsy.
If you want to step out of your comfort zone, try signing up for a Latin dance class at your local community center or dance studio. Ballroom dancing has many roots in Hispanic culture, and is even more fun if you bring a partner! You could learn to dance the salsa, the merengue, and much more. Online classes are available as well, if you are not comfortable dancing in a studio.
Lastly, you can learn how to play some party games popular in Hispanic culture. Dominoes and loteria are two of the most popular games. Loteria is a game of Mexican origin similar to bingo, while dominoes has existed among several cultures, including Cuban and Puerto Rican, for many years. You could also learn El Repello, a fun party game that plays like hot potato with a truth or dare spin.
Watch and Listen
A great way to familiarize yourself with Hispanic culture and speech is to watch Hispanic movies and TV shows, and listen to Hispanic music and podcasts. Much like books, these mediums can expose you to detailed and nuanced perspectives, teach you about the culture, and of course, provide a compelling narrative.
Here are some resources to get you started:
Resources for Students
If you are a Virgini