From serving our nation as Senators and Congressmen, to making crucial advances in the fields of astronautics and medicine, to enriching American culture with vivacious music and spicy dishes, Hispanics have founded lasting legacies in the United States. With over 55 million U.S. American citizens with Latino or Hispanic heritage and over 50 million Spanish speakers, our country benefits from a vibrant cultural diversity. To commemorate the myriad achievements and contributions of Latin American culture, President Johnson initiated Hispanic Heritage Week in September, 1968. In 1988, President Reagan extended the Week to National Hispanic Heritage Month, which includes the Independence Days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile. The goal is to celebrate U.S. American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America. Join us this September 15 - October 15, and celebrate with these six ideas!
1) Understand the Difference Between Latino and Hispanic:
While many use the terms “latino” and “hispanic” interchangeably, there are important differences between the two words. According to an article by Diffen, “Hispanic” refers to those with origins in Mexico and the majority of Central and South American countries, and serves as the more inclusive term. “Latino” refers more specifically to U.S. citizens of Latin American nationality, and is most widely used west of the Mississippi River.
2) Know Hispanic Heroes in U.S. History:
Through the ages, Hispanics and Latinos have made great contributions to world history and to our national heritage. Most U.S. Americans know the name Cesar Chavez, but did you know that he was a pioneering civil rights activist who devoted his life to fair working conditions for laborers? His courage and humanity are echoed by countless other historical Hispanic figures, whose stories you can read here.
3) Read Literature from Notable Hispanic Authors:
From Sandra Cisneros’ poignant vignettes in The House on Mango Street, to Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Isabel Allende’s luminous novels, there is a trove of unforgettable literature authored by Hispanic writers. Put Victor Villasenor’s Rain of Gold or Pam Munoz Ryan’s Esperanza Rising on your booklist. Find an author that captures your interest here, and if you’re in Austin, check out a book at the Laura Bush Library in the Westbank Library district.
4) Attend an Hispanic-American Art Show:
Many U.S. cities host several Hispanic art museums with exhibits by modern and contemporary artists from across Latin America, and local area artists. These cultural epicenters illustrate vibrant Hispanic cultures and communicate the Hispanic community’s dynamic story of diligence, tenacity, and passion. In Austin, Texas, spend an afternoon at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center pondering the paintings in Roberto Munguia’s “Ceromantia” exhibit, or learn about Icons and Symbols of the Borderland at the Mexic-Arte Museum.
5) Volunteer at a Local ESL Program:
With the high demand for ESL tutors in the U.S., consider volunteering in your community. In Austin, Texas, programs like Casa Marianella and El Buen Samaritano offer free courses for people wanting to learn English as a Second Language. If you have a service passion and are willing to make a weekly commitment to lifelong education, please volunteer.
6) Enjoy a Panaderia:
One of the best perks of living in Austin, Texas is the authentic Mexican food available citywide. Treat yourself to a concha or a chilandrina, two popular Mexican baked breads, available at panaderias like Mi Tradicion on William McCannon St., or La Mexicana Bakery on South 1st St.
However you celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, learn more about the significant contributions Hispanics make to our society, and enjoy the vivacious culture that enriches our country’s heritage.
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS Austin’s We Are Austin, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, The New York Times, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2015 and recipient of the British Airways International Trade, Investment & Expansion Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.