Whether you’re Hispanic, Latina/e/o/x or Spanish-speaking, this month is the time to celebrate your culture and the contributions it has made to the United States. This year, National Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) is September 15-October 15. It’s the annual recognition of Americans whose ancestry can be traced to the countries of Latin America. The celebration honors the influence of these communities and how they have shaped American history and culture, including the arts, sciences, business, politics, and the military.
Historically, Hispanic Heritage Month started as a week-long observance under President Lyndon B. Johnson and was extended to a full month by President Ronald Reagan 20 years later. The month was extended to October 15 because it falls within the dates of several Hispanic holidays, including the independence days of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. It also includes Mexico’s Dia de la Raza and the Day of the Dead.
In addition to celebrating the many cultures that make up Hispanic America, HHM provides a wonderful opportunity to educate students about the United States’ most populous ethnic group and its rich contributions. Many people are surprised to learn that the ancestry of Hispanics spans over 20 different countries and regions, making them an extremely diverse group of individuals.
The United States Department of Education offers a comprehensive resource on its website to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. It features links to multiple government entities that have resources to support teaching and learning in a variety of subject areas. For example, the Library of Congress has an extensive collection of historic documents, videos, and bilingual blogs on its Hispanic Heritage Month page. The site is accessible to anyone, and there is no charge to use its resources.
It’s important to note that while a single umbrella term may be helpful in describing the diversity of Hispanic/Latina/e/o/x America, it can also erase identities. Fernanda He, a Puerto Rican-born journalist who now lives in the United States, tells USA Today that she feels the label “Hispanic” doesn’t fully describe or accept her.
While He’s experience is unique, there are others who have similar feelings. A recent report from USA TODAY shows that more than 2 million people in the U.S. identify as multiracial, and more than half of those are Hispanic. Some of these individuals are black, Asian or indigenous, and may feel that the term Hispanic erases their identity.
Despite these complexities, there is no denying that Hispanic/Latina/e/o/x Heritage Month is a valuable educational tool. As such, it is a critical component in the mission of LACC to serve as a cultural center that connects Pittsburgh’s diverse community and teaches students about their unique and shared histories. To that end, LACC is partnering with universities and community organizations to develop a Pittsburgh-based curriculum of LHHM activities that fall under four core principles: cultural, educational, social and advocacy. This initiative will include partnerships with Carnegie Mellon University, Community College of Allegheny County, Duquesne University, Point Park University, Slippery Rock University and La Roche University.