We celebrate lots of diverse cultures and histories in the US: Black History Month, Native American Heritage Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and Irish American Heritage Month to name just a few. These celebrations are a reminder that America really is a melting pot, with a profusion of cultures, traditions, and stories. The diverse cultures are part of what makes America great, and the community events, festivals, and parades that happen during these months of recognition are a great opportunity to become familiar with these other cultures.
Hispanic Heritage Month (aka, National Hispanic Heritage Month or Latinx Heritage Month) may not get as much hype as some of the other monthly celebrations, but it’s still important to remember. Here’s what to know and how to celebrate!
What is Hispanic Heritage Month?
Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the contributions, history, and influence of Hispanic and Latino people. With 5.6 million Hispanics and Latinos, Hispanic Heritage Month is a multicultural celebration, which allows us to immerse ourselves in a world-wide experience. It’s international, but it’s also become very personal and local, with the intermixed flavors of home and family.
The September 15th launch date celebrates the independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, while September 16, 18, and 21 mark the independence of Mexico, Chile, and Belize. So, Hispanic Heritage Month takes place from September 15th to October 15th.
Origins of Hispanic Heritage Month
California Congressman George E. Brown introduced the idea of celebrating Hispanic Heritage in 1968. The Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, which coincided with an awareness and appreciation of multicultural identities. With Public Law 90-48, Congress authorized the National Hispanic Heritage Week, calling the “people of the United States, especially the educational community, to observe such week with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the proclamation, which launched Hispanic Heritage Week. Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan issued yearly proclamations from 1968 to 1988. Then, California Representative Esteban E. Torres proposed the expansion of the week to cover the current 31-day celebratory period, so Americans could “properly observe and coordinate events and activities to celebrate Hispanic culture and achievement.”
Senator Paul Simon (D-Illinois) submitted a revised bill in 1988. Reagan signed the bill into law, but President George H.W. Bush declared National Hispanic Heritage Month to be celebrated from September 15 to October 15. In his proclamation, he said, “Not all of the contributions made by Hispanic Americans to our society are so visible or so widely celebrated. Hispanic Americans have enriched our nation beyond measure with the quiet strength of closely-knit families and proud communities.”
How Do We Celebrate?
Hispanic Heritage Month features celebrations, events, and parades across the US. Even if you aren’t able to enjoy the events in your local community, you’ll find a bunch of virtual and live-streaming options. Here are just a couple of the events we’ve been checking out.
NYC Panamanian Parade
The Panamanian Parade Reception takes place on Thursday, October 7, 2021 from 7 pm to 11 pm. Then, the 26th Annual Panamanian Parade starts on October 9, 2021 at 10:30 am.
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AFI Latin American Film Festival
The 32nd Annual AFI Latin American Film Festival showcases Latin American cinema. It’s one of the longest-running and largest such events in North America, with films from Spain and Portugal. Originally named the Latino Festival when it was first launched in the 1970s, you can play all the trailers here.
The Smithsonian in Hispanic Heritage Month is offering a selection of exhibits and workshops featuring Justice Sonia Sotomayor, sculptor Marisol Escobar, and topics related to environmental justice in South America.
You can also celebrate the day with popular Hispanic cuisine, literature, music, and dancing.
What Do The Celebrations Look Like?
The truth is that Hispanic Heritage Month looks different depending on where in the US you’re celebrating. Here in New Mexico, Hispanic culture is important. It’s a part of what makes my state feel like home. We’re immersed in diversity, but there’s so much that’s cross-cultural. It’s not irrelevant. It’s never forgotten. It’s a rich history and culture that I want my kids to know and understand.
This is a time to celebrate as a community, as we come together to explore, learn, and grow through a burgeoning understanding of culture and history, and an appreciation of the hardships we all have faced. I love the stories, but it’s also just a great time to explore music, dance, and foods. We focus on family and friends, but we also eat and remind each other that life is a celebration that transcends culture. It’s also informed by our history and experience.
Did we miss anything? Keep the conversation going in the comments below!
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