Family history research can reveal many things about your ancestry. Civil records, like birth, death, and marriage certificates, provide a precious treasure trove of information.
Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. It started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and became a monthlong event in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan.
Hispanics are more aware than ever that they’re part of a broader community with distinct cultures, histories, and traditions. They recognize that Latino is not synonymous with Hispanic, often used as a racial category instead of a cultural designation.
Hispanic Heritage Month, which spans from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, honors the diverse histories and cultures of American citizens whose ancestors came from Latin America, Spain, and Mexico. The observance began as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, during the administration of President Lyndon Johnson, and was expanded to a whole month of celebrations in 1988.
The Lees-McRae Office of Inclusive Excellence invites you to celebrate with us and the 62 million people of Hispanic descent. Learn more about this vital group’s communities, cultures, and traditions through various events and resources available to families at the library. Read with your kids about the importance of family traditions, the ups and downs of language learning, and the multitude of immigration experiences through bilingual books and stories featuring relatable characters.
Families can connect with Spanish-speaking countries’ history, culture, and traditions through the many resources available at local public libraries. Nonfiction selections discuss these countries’ historical and educational aspects, while kids can enjoy popular novels written by Latino authors.
Another way to think about culture is as a set of implicit and explicit behavioral patterns that people adopt, generally without thinking about them, and pass along through imitation and communication. These patterns, which include a group’s knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and values, distinguish one culture from another. While cultures often span geographic borders, defining characteristics like language, food habits, and social norms tend to remain specific to one culture or another. This account of culture tries to respond to the essentialist challenge by arguing that what matters is that cultural group members believe themselves to be part of a particular culture and that this belief can change significantly over time without the central practices of the culture itself changing fundamentally.
Language is a core component of culture. It’s a system of conventional spoken, manual (signed), or written symbols that enable people to communicate with one another. It has many essential functions, including communication and the expression of identity.
Because of the close connection between language and culture, there’s a long history of certain groups controlling the speech of others. This often results in a loss of culture. For example, in Canada in the 19th century, Indigenous people were forced to learn English and were punished if they spoke their languages. This destruction of culture was devastating.
The Library of Congress’ Hispanic Heritage Collection features various resources. From nonfiction books that discuss historical and educational facts about Hispanic cultures to cookbooks and songbooks, there are plenty of opportunities for families to spend time learning together this Hispanic Heritage Month.
Whether it’s making pupusas in honor of the Day of the Dead or cooking up a traditional Mexican feast, food is a unifier and a way to share cultures. Mexicans are primarily known for their salsas and a unique griddle cake called tortillas that can be filled with different beans, cheese, or meat. In the book, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Ezequiel Moreno’s bakery is a central meeting place for his community and a source of hope for all who visit.
For families looking to learn more about Hispanic heritage, local public libraries have nonfiction selections that discuss historical and educational facts about the different countries in Latin America. They also have cookbooks, songbooks, and prayer books in Spanish. Some even have children’s books featuring Hispanic or Latinx characters and bilingual books.
Hispanic culture is rich in musical styles, from Argentina’s tango music to Colombia’s cumbia and Cuba’s salsa. A famous singer from Barranquilla, Colombia, named Shakira, was one of the most renowned Latin artists in the world in the ’90s. She was a hitmaker with her songs but used her fame to promote her charitable work.
Dance and music are essential to Hispanic culture and are often used to express religious beliefs and cultural identity. They are also integral to celebrations and rituals, such as festivals, parades, and Catholic processions.
Hispanic Heritage Month began as a week-long celebration in 1968, extending to 31 days in 1988. Celebrate this particular time in the life of your church and community by hosting an event featuring Hispanic-Latino musicians, food, dance, and other traditional cultural aspects.
Incorporating Hispanic Heritage Month into your workplace can promote diversity and inclusion. You could hold a cultural potluck for employees or invite local Hispanic community members to your business. You can also offer Spanish language classes to employees or provide bilingual signage and menus.
While many people celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, it is not without controversy. One ongoing debate is whether to use Hispanic, Latino, or Latinx to describe those of Hispanic descent.
Hispanics and Latinos descend from over 20 different countries and cultures. They speak many other languages, have varying political affiliations, and come from various races. Yet, they are often flattened into a one-dimensional stereotype.
Educating yourself about Hispanic culture can help you better understand your family history. You can find your ancestors’ stories in civil records, such as birth certificates and marriage licenses. You can also trace your heritage through genetic genealogy, using a DNA test like a Y-DNA or mtDNA test.