Since 1988 the United States has set aside September 15 to October 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month to recognize the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans. During this time, schools across the country celebrate Hispanic heritage and culture by teaching students about the rich and diverse history of this community. The following resources can help teachers and students find engaging ways to explore the many themes of Hispanic heritage in the classroom.
The National Park Service offers a helpful explainer on Hispanic heritage and terminology: “Hispanic refers to someone who comes from a country that speaks Spanish as its primary language, including Spain and the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Panama, Dominican Republic, and Venezuela.” This explanation also notes that Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15, which commemorates the start of Mexico’s fight for independence from Spain in 1810. Similarly, people who are of mixed Indigenous and European descent may identify as Latino or Latina.
A variety of federal agencies provide resources to honor Hispanic Heritage Month and the many aspects of Latin American culture that it reflects. For example, a blog post at the Library of Congress shares resources from its Historia collection and suggests activities that highlight Hispanic Heritage in a range of content areas. PBS Learning Media hosts a series of short history-centered videos and primary source sets, while StoryCorps presents several podcasts on the experience of Hispanics in the US.
Educators are encouraged to use these resources to supplement existing curriculum, but they are not required to do so. A broader understanding of the history and cultures of Latin America can enrich the experience of all students, regardless of their background or interests. This can contribute to a more culturally inclusive and equitable society.
Megan Lysaght is a Management Analyst with the Global Talent Management Bureau’s Retention Unit. She is a first generation college graduate and is proud to be part of the Hispanic workforce at the Department of State. She has a BA and MPA from California Lutheran University, which is a Hispanic Serving Institution. She previously served in the EducationUSA network, as a Fulbright high school private exchange coordinator, and with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on programs for Hispanic-Americans, International Visitors Leadership Program, and Western Hemisphere Affairs. She is a 2021 VSFS Intern Alumni of the Year and a member of the Hispanic Employee Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies (HECFAA).