National Hispanic Heritage Month runs Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The celebration is a time to honor and reflect on the many contributions Hispanic Americans have made to the United States. It is also an opportunity to educate people about the rich cultures of Hispanic America and the wide range of ethnic identities in our community.
Educators have lots of tools at their fingertips to help make learning fun and relevant for Hispanic Heritage Month. For example, NPR’s StoryCorps hosts a special series of podcast episodes called Hispanic Heritage Month featuring beloved authors like Sonia Manzano (Becoming Maria) and Pam Munoz Ryan (Esperanza Rising and Mananaland). Scholastic offers A Month of Ideas for Celebrating Hispanic Heritage with books for all ages. And the Smithsonian has resources on a variety of topics, from Mexico’s Aztec history to profiles of Latino patriots in military history.
While these educational resources are helpful, it’s important to note that Hispanic Americans have a long and rich history in the country. In fact, the nation was built on the foundation of Hispanic settlers’ courage and perseverance. For this reason, it’s critical to include this narrative of our country’s past when teaching about Hispanic Heritage and how the legacy of Hispanics continues to shape the present-day United States.
There is a lot to celebrate this year. For example, the new Latin American Cultural Center (LACC) in Pittsburgh opened its doors to the public on Sept. 15. LACC is a gathering place for the community where education, culture and history meet. The center will offer school tours, in-person visits and on line presentations. It will be a great resource for understanding the history and contributions of the nearly 20% of our nation’s population who have roots in Latin America.
But, as we prepare to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s important for educators to know that there are some differences between the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino.” In short, hispanic refers to a person’s language while Latino/a and Latinx refer to where someone is from. People from the southern portion of the United States would describe themselves as Hispanic, while those in northern parts of the country would consider themselves Latino/a or Latinx.
But even with the different descriptors, there’s no doubt that a single term can hardly capture the spirit and histories of the vast communities that descend from a geographic area that spans from present-day southwestern states to the southern tip of South America. It’s for this reason that people self-identify in myriad ways. And that’s exactly why Hispanic Heritage Month exists. Despite these differences, everyone can find something to celebrate in the many diverse voices of our communities. From artists like Kali Uchis and Emily Estefan to activists like Rachel Zegler, Sasha Calle and Lee Rodriguez, ET will celebrate the unique perspectives of these individuals who are making a difference in their communities. We will take a look at how they’re using their platforms to advocate for the issues that matter most to them and their followers.