Equity Office » Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month

A collage of prominent Hispanic Americans, cutouts forming the frame of a square visual

Every year, from September 15 to October 15, our country recognizes and celebrates the culture and contributions of Latinx Americans to our nation. These weeks also mark the days in which many Latin American countries gained their independence from the countries they were colonized by (mostly Spain):
  • September 15 marks the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua who declared independence in 1821.

  • September 16 marks the anniversary of Mexico’s independence.

  • September 18 marks the anniversary of Chile’s independence.

  • September 21 marks the anniversary of Belize’s independence.

This month is a celebratory time for autonomy and freedom, and for those of us that live in the United States, this is an important time to connect with the cultures of our motherlands. Typically, there’s a lot of food, dancing, and fun events (pre-COVID times). Hispanic Heritage Month is also a bit like being an American in Canada and celebrating the fourth of July with a small group of Americans -- it's definitely not as large as celebrating in your home country, but it’s still a great time and you celebrate sharing a common love for your country.

As educators, we recognize that Hispanic Heritage Month is also an excellent opportunity to learn more about our Latinx students and celebrate the diverse backgrounds that they come from! This starts with listening, and cultivating the safe spaces in your classrooms, and facilitating activities that encourage students to share where they are from. At the EPS we have students with families from many LatinX and Hispanic countries and we want to provide spaces for students and families to share this piece of themselves and their culture allowing them to feel seen, heard, and valued. Stay tuned for a flurry of events highlighting the heritage of many of our valued students, families and educators of the Hispanic LatinX disapora. 

Quick Terminology:
There are several terms to refer to Latinx students and families. The term ‘Latinx’ is generally used to describe Latin American students and families, but this term has its own flaws. Ultimately, there is no one right term and there is disagreement about what is the most appropriate term to use. Here is a quick glossary of some of these identity markers:

  • Hispanic is a term that derives from the Latin word ‘Hispanicus’ and refers to Spain and the Iberian Peninsula in Europe. This term refers to people, communities, and cultures connected to the Spanish language, Spanish culture, Spanish people, or to Spain in general. Critics of this term say it centers Spain’s colonialism.

  • Latinx or Latine is a gender-neutral term that is used instead of Latino, Latina, and Latin@ that refers to people of Latin American cultural or ethnic identity. This term is very recent and is more popularized in academic settings, and only 3% of Latino adults use this term. Some critique this term as being difficult to pronounce in Spanish and not being used in Spanish-speaking countries at all, so this term may not be the best term to use with families with Latin American heritage since it may be alienating. However, this term is inclusive of people of all gender identities and is useful for LGBTQ+ identifying Latin Americans who wish to avoid the gender binary that is frequently utilized in the Spanish language.

  • Chicano, Chicana, or Chicanx is an identity that describes people of Mexican descent born in the US. This identity is also associated with the social and political movement to combat structural racism and reject assimilation in the 60s and 70s.

  • Spanish-Speaking refers to people who speak Spanish. While useful in its generality, it does not describe a country of origin or ethnic identity. Additionally, ESL stands for ‘English as a Second or Foreign Language’ describes students in school who learn to speak English with a different native language.

  • Many Latinx people also prefer country of origin labels (such as Mexican or Cuban or Ecuadorian) to pan-ethnic terms such as Latinx or Hispanic. In a study done by the Pew Center in 2015, 50% of Hispanics described themselves most often by their country of origin/heritage, while 23% used the term Hispanic/Latino, and 23% identified as American.

Because there is no one term, it is important to allow students space to use the identity label that most resonates with them. We look forward to celebrating, sharing and honoring culture. 

National Hispanic Heritage Month