For Americans whose ancestors came from countries like Mexico, Chile or the Caribbean, Hispanic Heritage Month offers a time to celebrate their culture and history. The National Park Service and other departments in the U.S. Department of the Interior preserve and interpret many historic sites across the country that can serve as a window into Hispanic American heritage and influences at different periods in our nation’s history.
In 2020, the Census Bureau reported that there were 62.1 million people in the United States who identified as Hispanic or Latino. These individuals accounted for 18% of the country’s population. Hispanics and Latinos have left a lasting mark on our nation’s culture, cuisine, music and art. Their contributions to science, literature and politics are just a few examples of how their legacy has touched us all.
However, the word Hispanic can be a controversial one for some in the community. The term Hispanic, which is the name of a month celebrated in September, refers to those who come from countries where Spanish is the primary language. This includes Spain, but excludes Brazil and other Latin America countries that speak Portuguese. The use of the term Latino and the more recent adoption of the word Latinx are intended to be more inclusive for people whose roots stem from these various countries.
Some of the best ways to honor Hispanic Heritage Month is by volunteering, donating money or eating foods native to the countries and territories that are being celebrated. You can also learn about these cultures by watching movies or listening to music from these regions. Those who have children can teach them about the importance of Hispanic Heritage Month by introducing them to the many books, music and movies featuring Hispanic characters and themes. In addition to these resources, teachers can use the NEH Hispanic Heritage Month Teacher’s Guide to introduce students to important historical figures and the many ways that Hispanic Americans have helped shape this country.
The Hispanic Heritage Month celebration begins on September 15 in observance of the independence days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Mexico celebrates its independence on the 16th, while Chile does so on the 18th and Belize marks its independence on September 21.
Hispanic Heritage Month is also a great opportunity to talk with friends, neighbors and coworkers about the rich history of these communities. You can also explore the diverse cultures in your own community, such as by attending a Mexican independence parade or visiting your local museum. You can even check out the Library of Congress for a variety of Hispanic and Latino resources, including videos, online learning tools and bilingual posters. This year, the Library of Congress will also release 50 audio recordings of 20th and 21st century Luso-Hispanic writers. These readings can be listened to from any of the public reading rooms or downloaded free of charge.