Whether you are a Latino American or not, National Hispanic Heritage Month is an important time to celebrate your community’s culture and history. The month-long celebration, which began as a weeklong event under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded to a month 20 years later by Ronald Reagan with legislation passed into law, is meant to give Americans more time to properly recognize the contributions Hispanic/Latino Americans have made to this country.
Despite this, there are many ways that Hispanic Heritage Month can be improved for all communities. One way to do this is by embracing the diversity of Hispanic/Latinx identities. For example, some people prefer the term “Latinx” over Hispanic, which is often deemed too Eurocentric. It’s also important to remember that Hispanic heritage doesn’t just include people from Spain, Portugal and the Caribbean islands, but it also includes the cultures of many indigenous peoples in the Americas as well as African slaves who became enslaved by Spaniards in the Americas.
Hispanic Heritage Month also needs to be more inclusive, especially when it comes to whose history is celebrated. Hispanic Heritage Month only celebrates the Spanish side of Latinidad, and it ignores the Asian, Black and indigenous Latino experiences, says Cynthia Rios, a New York-based Hispanic rights activist. Rios and her family are mixed, and she worries that Hispanic Heritage Month and other Hispanic celebrations will continue to erase Latinos who don’t look white or light skinned.
This is why the Hispanic Heritage Foundation is advocating that the celebration be expanded to a month and that it encompass all Latino traditions, including music, food, art and history. They are also working to change how the celebration is promoted by using social media hashtags that promote inclusivity.
Another way to improve Hispanic Heritage Month is by making sure the celebration is culturally authentic. This means incorporating traditional foods, dances and games into events that take place in schools, museums and other places where people gather. For example, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Los Angeles Harbor is well-known for its annual Dia de los Muertos block party, where Club kids help decorate the space and make traditional Latino dishes.
Hispanic Heritage Month is also a great opportunity to teach children and students about the diversity of Latino and Latinx history, culture, art, literature and language. There are numerous resources available on the internet to use in the classroom.
Buley Library is celebrating Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month by featuring a selection of physical and virtual resources from its collections on display during regular library hours. Stop by and check it out.