During Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 to October 15, Americans with roots in Spain, Mexico and Latin America celebrate the cultures and contributions that make them special. It’s also a time to reflect on the history of the United States and the contributions that have made it what it is.
The Hispanic Heritage Movement in the United States has gained considerable cultural and political clout since its inception as a weeklong celebration in 1968. Now, Hispanic Heritage Month stretches across two months, honoring the cultures and traditions of people with ties to Spain, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean.
This year’s theme, “Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation,” encourages us to focus on the complexities and challenges of bringing about inclusiveness for all. We will promote inclusion, professional development and cultural recognition for Hispanics to help strengthen our communities and build stronger nations.
Many members of the Hispanic community are often overlooked in American society and public education, notes David Garcia, an associate professor of English and Latino Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He says the term Hispanic often erases people from other racial groups, especially Asian, Black and indigenous Latinos.
In addition, the term “Hispanic” can be used to describe a person who is Spanish-speaking and/or descended from people in the Spanish-speaking world, rather than someone who is from an Latin American country or region, notes Christina Mora, assistant professor of sociology at UC Berkeley. For many Latinos, that can feel limiting, she says.
It also can be difficult for non-Hispanics to recognize and understand the diverse cultural contributions of people who are Hispanic. This is especially true for younger generations, she says.
Hispanic Heritage Month, like other annual observances such as Black History Month and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, provides an opportunity to educate the general population about these communities. The goal is to ensure that everyone can identify with these communities and participate in the observances.
The United States has a large population of Hispanics, with 62.1 million people identifying as Hispanic or Latino in the 2020 census. This represents nearly 20% of the nation’s total population.
This is important to recognize because Hispanics are an integral part of the U.S. culture and economy.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) works to promote health awareness for all Hispanics by disseminating bilingual educational messages about disease prevention and health promotion. We have a number of resources and activities available online, including bilingual materials, graphics, and social media messaging.
In addition, HHS offers a variety of programs and events that help Hispanics learn about their health. These include a free Hispanic/Latino health screening program and a Hispanic/Latino Health Profile, which highlights issues that impact the Hispanic/Latino population in the U.S.
For Hispanics, a major barrier to health is that they are less likely to receive preventative services than other Americans. This is because they are less likely to be insured or access health care, according to HHS data.