National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15. This time of year celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. It was begun in 1968 under President Lyndon B. Johnson and expanded by President Ronald Reagan to a month-long observance that includes the independence days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras (September 15), Mexico (September 16) and Chile (September 18).
A lot of what we think of as “American” culture has roots in Hispanic history, including cowboy hats, the names Colorado and Florida, barbecue, the dollar sign and even the star and stripes flag. During this month of recognition, there are many ways families can explore these cultures together.
The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery has teamed up with Lil’ Libros, a bilingual children’s book publisher, to host the second Fotos & Recuerdos Festival with art and craft workshops, story times and gallery tours. Across the country, Boys & Girls Clubs of America are known for their Dia de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead”) block parties, where Club kids help with food, music and decorations.
NEH has a number of resources for teachers looking to add Hispanic Heritage Month to their curriculum. The Educator’s Guide to Hispanic Heritage offers lesson plans, teaching tools and think pieces. It also includes a list of important Hispanic figures who have made significant contributions to society.
In addition, a number of digitized collections offer more in-depth information on specific topics. For example, the NEH’s Digital Library of American History has a large collection on the Mexican Revolution and its aftermath, which is available on a number of platforms, from a mobile app to a scholarly platform called Digital History Commons.
For more historical data, the Census Bureau publishes a number of reports on Hispanic and Latino origin in the United States. The Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey produces annual population estimates by age, sex and race for the nation, states and counties. Historical data are also available in the Census Bureau’s Archive Files.
The Census Bureau’s Race and Hispanic Origin in the United States page provides links to many of these publications and to other relevant government sources.
A final note: As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we should remember that it’s time to amplify Black, indigenous and brown Hispanic and Latino voices. That means reexamining the way the word Hispanic is used in this context, and recognizing that we need to expand the definition of who is considered part of this community to be more inclusive.
What does your family’s Hispanic heritage mean to you? Share your stories with us.
Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time to introduce young kids to the many different cultures that make up this vibrant, diverse community. And, of course, it’s a good time to get out and explore nature — Hispanic Heritage Month coincides with National Park Week, which offers many opportunities for family fun in the parks.