Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month
By Janet Ross-Heiner, Librarian and English Language Learning Instructor
In Mexican-American communities, National Hispanic Heritage Month begins with the shout that marks the start of the Mexican Revolution—the grito (shout) heard around the world. In the flag, colors of crimson red and earthy green flank the image of the eagle with the serpent in its clutches. Folks celebrate Mexican Independence Day each year on September 16, donning these national colors, and holding elote (corn) in one hand and agua fresca (cool water) in the other.
This same scene unfolds throughout the United States with different foods and different colors depending on the specific Hispanic community. Each celebration is undeniably unique.
As we celebrate and honor the heritage of the people throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, we must also do the important work of understanding how and why the distinct histories of a multinational, multicultural, and multilingual group of communities were consolidated into Hispanic heritage in the first place.
For example, the term Hispanic was a term that was initiated for census brochures. Then Latino/a became a focus because it is more inclusive with Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Now LatinX furthers the language to include youth and LGBTIQA+.
As someone who falls under the definition of Hispanic, I know that personal identities and labels can shift. Some may identify as Hispanic, while others will identify as LatinX or Mexican American.
Understanding the history behind these shifting identifications—and particularly the history of the word Hispanic—can help us better understand the challenges this term has created.
Viva México, Central America, and Caribé!
Find recommended reading on Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15, 2023).