The national celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs through October 15, started in 1968 when President Lyndon B. Johnson first issued a proclamation to recognize “Hispanic Week.” Congress passed a law in 1988 extending the observance to last a month.
Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the culture, history and impact of Latin America and Latino Americans. It’s also an important moment to highlight the diversity of the 62 million people who identify as Hispanic or Latina/e/o/x in the United States and the many ways they contribute to our shared society.
But what does it mean to celebrate this complex identity under the broad Hispanic umbrella? For starters, there’s the language issue: Hispanics is a blanket term that includes all people who speak Spanish, which excludes those from countries like Brazil—who are called “Latino”—and the Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. It also erases the centuries of pre-Columbian history in a region that was conquered and colonized by Spain, says historian Carlos Ortiz. And it alienates indigenous and Afro-Latina communities that have long fought against that legacy.
Those tensions are heightened as Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close. As the 2020 Census revealed, fewer Hispanics identify as white, while more consider themselves of two or more races. That makes it even more important to amplify voices that aren’t usually heard, like Black and indigenous Hispanics, Ortiz says.
That’s why, this year, ET is highlighting the work of activists, leaders and artists making an impact in their communities. From Kali Uchis and Emily Estefan to Sasha Calle and Rachel Zegler, we’re celebrating the voices of Hispanic and Latinx folks who are using their platforms to raise awareness about the issues they care about most.
This Hispanic Heritage Month, we want to hear from you: What are the issues you’re most passionate about and how are you working for change? We invite you to share your stories with us via the hashtag #Unidos.
Explore the many faces of Hispanic and Latinx America through our collection of video documentaries, interviews and exhibitions, which are free to view on TED.com and at participating museums. If you prefer to listen, our Hispanic and Latino Collection of TED Talks is available in a special bilingual podcast (with English subtitles) and on Audible. And check with your local museum to see if it’s hosting any Hispanic Heritage Month events. (You can also find short Hispanic Heritage-themed videos and primary source sets on PBS Learning Media.) And for an immersive, cultural experience, you can always travel to Latin America and the Caribbean through virtual visits to such landmarks as the Teotihuacan pyramids and Machu Picchu. And don’t forget to donate to organizations that support Hispanic and Latina/e/o/x people. We recommend the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Latino Victory and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice. They’re doing vital work to empower the community.