From little Sylvia Mendez to Cesar Chavez, Hispanic Americans have made great contributions to our country and the world. For decades we have honored them and many other Hispanic icons during Hispanic Heritage Month, a thirty-day celebration from September 15th through October 15th. This year, let’s all take the time to learn and celebrate the Hispanic culture.
The History of National Hispanic Heritage Month
National Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to commemorate the “histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.” It all began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week, but in 1988 it was expanded to a full 30 days. Today, there are festivals, exhibits, parades, and television specials throughout the United States in honor of the millions of Hispanic Americans living in this country.
Hispanic heritage is a great part of American ancestry. According to the Pew Research Center, there are 57 million Hispanic Americans, making up nearly 20 percent of the United States population. While most Hispanic Americans have Mexican ancestry (65 percent), there are also millions of Americans with Puerto Rican, Cuban, Salvadoran, Dominican, Guatemalan, Colombian, Honduran, Ecuadorian, or Peruvian heritage. This month, we celebrate these different cultures and the influence they have had in the U.S.
This year take a mindful approach to the National Hispanic Heritage Month festivities with the tips listed below.
- Explore Hispanic American history. Use the month to explore and learn new things about Hispanic American culture. Check with your local museums and see if there are any new exhibits dedicated to Hispanic Heritage Month. Also, try checking out the National Park Service’s list of Historical Places that are significant to Hispanic heritage or read the spotlights from the Library of Congress on Hispanic writers.
- Learn the language. Can you speak Spanish? If not, this may be the month for you to brush up on the language. The Spanish language is the “most spoken non-English language” in the U.S. Making Spanish your second language not only helps you communicate with a variety of people, it can also be good for your brain.
- Get your kids in on the action. National Hispanic Heritage Month is the perfect opportunity to teach your children about a culture that may be different from their own. Older children can read biographies or watch documentaries about famous Hispanic Americans. For younger children consider printing out coloring pages of famous Hispanic Americas, such as Sonia Sotomayor or Luis Walter Alvarez.
Bonus: Want to learn more? Visit the National Hispanic Heritage Month website.