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How to Teach Kids About Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15th through October 15th each year. This holiday is meant to celebrate and honor the cultural contributions of Hispanic and Latinx Americans. Read along to learn about the history of Hispanic Heritage Month. Explore ways you can celebrate and honor the culture with your family.

Hispanic Heritage Month History

When Hispanic Heritage Month was first created, it was meant to celebrate the contributions of Latnix Americans in American history. California Congressman George E. Brown introduced the holiday as a way to honor his constituents from East Los Angeles and the work they had done to enrich the culture of the US and further the Civil Rights movement. A commemorative week was officially authorized in 1968. In 1988, this week was expanded to a full month. 

The start of Hispanic Heritage Month coincides with the independence days of several Latin American countries. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua all celebrate their independence on September 15th. Mexico celebrates its independence on September 16th. Chile and Belize celebrate their independence on September 18th. For many, it felt fitting that the monthly celebration fit in with these historic events in Latin America. 

How do we celebrate?

Since Hispanic Heritage Month is meant to celebrate the contributions of Latinx Americans, the best way to celebrate is by celebrating and experiencing these contributions first hand! Here are a few ways you can honor and celebrate Latinx contributions while being respectful of the culture and traditions: 

  1. Read about the history of Latinx/Hispanic Americans in the US. You can visit https://www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov/ to learn more about the ways Latinx/Hispanic Americans have impacted history and how Latinx folks continue to influence and enrich the country. Be sure to share this history with your family as well!
  2. Enjoy and appreciate Latino foods. You can do this by visiting a local restaurant or by learning to cook a dish at home! Try a national dish and learn the history behind foods in Latin America. Check out our book Proud to Be Latino: Food/Comida, by Ashley Marie Mireles, to learn about the food history in Latin America. For an easy sweet treat, check out Aguas Frescas & Paletas, by Erika Sanchez. Be sure to check out Erika’s blog for more family-friendly recipes. 
  3. Read books by Latinx authors. Read books written by Latinx authors about their experiences in the US and abroad. Check out this list of books for some inspiration: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/kids/proud-to-be-latino-food-comida-author-ashley-marie-mireles-shares-her-favorite-books-by-latino-authors/ 
  4. Listen to Latinx music. Hispanic Heritage Month is a great opportunity to explore traditional Latino children’s songs like De Colores. It’s also a great opportunity to explore the discography of iconic Latino artists like: Selena Quintanilla, Gloria Estefan, Richie Valenz, Santana, Celia Cruz, and so many more! 
  5. Watch Latinx movies and TV. Latinx TV shows are on the rise, with shows like On My Block, Gentefied, and One Day at a Time on Netflix—featuring Latino stories and writers rooms—being some of the most popular shows to stream. For younger audiences, Disney’s Coco and biopics like McFarland are also great choices to learn about Latino culture and experiences. Classics like Dora the Explorer and Plaza Seasamo are great choices for babies and toddlers! 
  6. Shop Latinx. Over the past ten years, the number of Latino business owners grew 34 percent. Support these businesses this month and every month by shopping small. You can visit your local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to find small businesses near you or visit ShopLatinx.com to shop a curated selection of Latinx-owned businesses. 
  7. If you and your family are of Latinx/Hispanic descent, learn about your ancestors! Check in with tias, tios, abuelas, and abuelos to learn more about your own family’s Latino history. Ask questions about where you come from and what your great grandparents were like. Do you have family traditions that were passed down? What about names? Talk about them. 

Latinx vs Latino vs Hispanic

You may have noticed the use of the term “Latinx” in this article and wondered what the difference is between “Latinx,” “Latino,” and “Hispanic.” When Hispanic Heritage Month was established, the term “Hispanic” was a popular word to describe anyone who can trace their lineage back to a Spanish-speaking nation. 

In the late 1970s, many activists and folks from non–Spanish speaking countries in Latin America called for use of the term “Latino.” By the late ’90s, “Latino” became increasingly popular and the preferred term among many. This term applies to anyone from Latin America, which is defined as the Spanish-speaking countries in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. It was coined because many people felt the experiences and cultural practices differed between Spain/Portugal and Latin America. This term also rejected the Spanish influence of “Hispanic,” which many people felt tied Latin Americans to their colonized history rather than their own. 

In recent years, terms like “Latine”, “Latin@,” “Latina/o,” and “Latinx” have seen increased popularity as a gender-neutral and more inclusive version of “Latino.” The Oxford English Dictionary added the term “Latinx” to its dictionary in 2018, and the term was widely used during the reporting of the Pulse Nightclub tragedy. “Latinx” is quickly becoming the preferred and common term amongst Millenials and Gen Z Latinos. 

Ultimately, the choice to use “Hispanic,” “Latine”, “Latino,” “Latinx,” or many of the other terms to identify someone from Latin America is up to each individual. If you’re still unsure about the different terms or how you would like to personally identify, researching the history behind these words would also be a great way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month! 

Ashley Marie Mireles is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Familius Publishing working to help families be happy. Ashley believes that happy home lives can lead to a happier world and hopes that the books she writes, helps create, and sells, will bring families to a happier place in their lives. She has authored several children’s books with Familius and hopes to continue creating more. Her collaborative sales efforts have helped Familius become one of the fastest-growing independent publishers for four years in a row Ashley currently serves on the Independent Book Publishers Association Board of Directors and is the Co-Chair of the IBPA’s DEI Committee. She hopes to help create a publishing industry that is inviting, inclusive, and accessible for all through her work with the IBPA. She currently lives in Fresno, CA with her partner and two rescue pups.

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