Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 - October 15) is an annual celebration in the United States that honors the history, culture, and contributions of Americans whose ancestry can be traced to 20 countries and one territory — which includes Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Spain.
While the official and more common umbrella term, “Hispanic” is something that most of us are familiar with, this (as we’ll touch on later) does not represent the diverse races, cultures, and Indigenous languages that encompass this large community. This is why you may also see this recognized as Latino Heritage Month, Latinx Heritage Month, or Latine Heritage Month.
If this sounds confusing or complicated just ask a member of the community which term they feel comfortable using! Personally, I prefer to use the gender-neutral term Latine to describe the community. Not only does it make efforts to capture the full spectrum of our communidad, but linguistically, it’s easier for me to say in Spanish! I’ll use Latine throughout this article for the sake of simplicity and clarity. Again, it’s a personal (very intentional) preference but something to keep in mind when you hear or see these terms moving forward.
And while we should never wait for an annual event or holiday to take pride in or celebrate someone’s ethnic background, Latine and Hispanic Americans use this as an opportunity to honor their respective cultures and ancestral backgrounds.
From concerts and parades to food fairs and “carne asadas,” this is a time meant for recognition, education, and (of course) celebration.
By the way, some of the links in this article (like books!) are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!
Why does Hispanic Heritage Month start in the middle of September?
We’re quite used to having dedicated months to honor specific communities — think: Black History Month in February, Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, or Pride Month in June. So, why is Hispanic Heritage Month spread across two months?
It might seem random, however, the timing of Hispanic Heritage Month deliberately overlaps with several Latin American Independence Day celebrations.
September 15th was chosen as the kickoff date since it coincides with the Independence Day celebrations of five countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua), followed by Mexico on September 16th, Chile on the 18th, and Belize on the 21st.
Another important date that falls within this 30-day period is Día de la Raza, or Indigenous Peoples Day, which is celebrated in Mexico on October 12th.
The idea to celebrate Hispanic Heritage initially began as a week-long observance in 1968 under President Lyndon B. Johnson and was later extended to a full month 20 years later by President Ronald Reagan.
Keep reading to find more answers to frequently asked questions at the end of this article.
5 Facts About Hispanic Heritage Month
- According to the latest U.S. Census data, the Hispanic or Latine population hit 62.1 million — making this community the largest minority group in the country.
- There were actually two different attempts to make Hispanic Heritage Month happen. In 1987, Representative Esteban Torres of California tried to expand National Hispanic Heritage Week into a month-long occasion, which would “allow our nation to properly observe and coordinate events and activities to celebrate Hispanic culture and achievement.”
Though it was unsuccessful in getting passed in Congress, Senator Paul Simon of Illinois later submitted a similar bill, which was eventually signed by President Ronald Reagan on August 17, 1988.
- Instead of celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day, Mexicans observe the Día de la Raza (Race Day) on October 12th, which recognizes the mixed Indigenous and European heritage of Mexico.
- Love your cowboy hats? You have Mexican and Spanish ranchers or “rancheros” to thank for that! The traditions, which originated in Mexico and Spain, come from hard-working farmers who used cowboy hats as they worked over their crops and livestock.
- Although they are often used interchangeably, the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” have different meanings. The term Hispanic refers to someone who comes from or is a descendant of a Spanish-speaking country, whereas Latina or Latino (or the gender-neutral, Latine) refers to someone who comes from Latin America or is a descendant from any Latin American country.
This means that a person can be both Hispanic and Latine, however, not all Latine people are Hispanic. For instance, Brazilians are Latinos, but their native language is not Spanish.
Activities & Ideas To Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month
Learn why Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated.
We often see people quick to celebrate holidays without much context behind the actual events — ahem, Cinco de Mayo. Relying on stereotypes or assumptions is not only hurtful but can keep us from truly understanding our neighbors. Hispanic Heritage Month is no exception.
This TEDx Talk provides insight into what it means to be Hispanic and Latine, while also asking us to dig deeper into the common stereotypes and assumptions that many in this community face.
If you’re feeling empowered to dive even deeper, the National Museum of the American Latino, offers bilingual resources like interactive activities.
Want more resources? We’ve got you!
The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (whew, that’s a lot) jointly pay tribute to the generations of Latine and Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.
They’ve made documents, exhibits, films, blog posts, and more available to the public — including a calendar of free online events.
Watch a documentary about the Latine experience.
While this month is primarily centered around vibrant celebrations, it’s also important to acknowledge the systemic issues that plague this community.
For a moving love letter to immigrants and their children, Mija: A Disney Original Documentary directed by Isabel Castro, captures the emotional and complex stories of Doris Muñoz and Jacks Haupt, two daughters of undocumented immigrants from Mexico, navigating their careers in the music industry.
Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison documentary directed by Tom Donahue, follows a popular norteño band, Los Tigres del Norte as they decide to perform at Folsom State Prison in California — 50 years after Johnny Cash held his historic concert there.
Through a series of intimate and emotional interviews, this documentary aims to illustrate the unique experiences of those who are Latine and incarcerated.
Latino Americans, a PBS documentary series, is the first major documentary series for television to chronicle the rich and diverse history and experiences of the Latine population. It’s a story of the anguish, celebration, and gradual reconstruction of an American identity that connects and empowers millions of people today.
Add a few new podcasts to your queue.
Latino USA is a nationally syndicated public radio program distributed by NPR that brings together a diverse set of Latine voices to shed light on the current cultural, political, and social issues impacting the Latine community and our nation today.
If you want to level up your TED Talks experience, you’ll love TED en Español (with multilingual subtitles), which includes a library of episodes specifically designed to help people think critically on topics ranging from disability to art and poetry.
The Advanced Spanish podcast offers those who enjoy listening to the news a way to listen to global news stories in Spanish — and at a slower pace.
Visit a museum.
Check with your local museum to see if it’s hosting any events or exhibitions highlighting Hispanic and Latine heritage (and bring a friend). Visiting museums gives you the opportunity to get up close and immerse yourself in the art, festivities, or people showcasing their unique perspectives.
You can find relevant exhibits and collections on the National Hispanic American Heritage Month website.
Take a virtual tour.
For those curious about Latin and Hispanic culture but unable to gain access to museums or experiences, we’ve got a solution: virtual tours. (Thank you, technology!)
Nonprofits and institutions are eager to share their local cultures and traditions with the world, so they have made it increasingly accessible to visit famous sites and museums from the comfort of your couch.
Here are a few that have caught our eyes:
- Check out the Mayan Pyramids by virtually visiting Mexico’s Chichén Itzá.
- Explore the ancient Mesoamerican city, Teotihuacan Pyramid (Pyramids of the Sun) of Mexico.
- Virtually trek through Machu Pichu in Peru with a guided 360-degree tour that grants viewers access to areas closed off to in-person visitors. Bonus: there’s an audio guide!
- If you love art, The Museu de Arte de São Paulo — Brazil’s first modern museum — offers online access to their artwork.
- Google offers up-close, 360-degree views of animals in the Galápagos Islands. There's even a “street view,” allowing viewers to tour the archipelago at their own pace.
- This eco-lodge in Panama's jungle has a live stream for those who love bird-watching or simply love the background sound of bustling wildlife.
- Said to be one of the best dive sites in the world, the Gardens of the Queen is an archipelago off the coast of Cuba. Airpano provides up close and personal 360-degree shots of diving experiences.
- Iguazu Falls, one of the most important destinations in Argentina and Brazil, offers viewers the opportunity to stand on one of the viewing platforms, gaze down into the Devil's Throat, or even get a birds-eye view of the natural attraction.
- Wander around the Amazon Basin in Brazil. From traveling down the epic river, to trekking a jungle trail, to even meeting a local tribe, this experience is a unique way to get a glimpse into the famed Amazon Basin.
- The Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California is offering an online experience (Forgotten Images Exhibition Online tour) as part of its Afro-Latinx Festival.
Read books written by Latine or Hispanic authors and poets.
To understand another culture or way of life, one of our go-to’s should always be the library. From the deeply horrific — but moving — books like “The Devil's Highway: A True Story” by Luis Alberto Urrea, to award-winning poetry like “Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo, and “Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science” by Jessica Hernandez, Ph.D., we gain insight and increased knowledge into intimately human experiences faced by the Latine community.
Listen to audiobooks written or narrated by Latine or Hispanic authors and poets.
We love Libro.fm and its mission to support locally-owned bookshops through audiobook purchases. (Plus, it’s a great Amazon alternative.) In honor of this month of festivities, they’re highlighting bookstores, authors, and narrators within the Latine and Hispanic communities.
Listeners can browse through their playlist and find content aimed at empowering, learning, and celebrating the Latine and Hispanic experience. Plus, your audiobook download can support a Latine- or Hispanic-owned bookstore.
Read inspiring Hispanic Heritage Month quotes.
There’s no shortage of beautiful words from Hispanic and Latine leaders about what it means to carry these identities. Explore these curated quotes about Hispanic Heritage Month (and use them to share via social media posts).
Attend an event.
A central part of this month-long celebration is the events that many cities across the U.S. work hard to put on. Events can include traditional dances, live music, art displays, and food stalls.
Support your local community by showing up and taking part in any event happening in your area.
Follow and support Latine and Hispanic influencers and advocates.
Growing up in a Latine household, I often heard the “dicho” (or saying): “Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres,” in other words, “tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.”
Our online community, too, can be a reflection of our values, interests, and aspirations, so we wanted to highlight just some of the many Latine and Hispanic influencers and advocates creating safe, inclusive, and informed spaces for the Latine community:
- Known for their popular Spanish ASMR TikTok videos, Andrés (or @asif.tv on social media) educates their viewers on all things Latinx and current events that affect the community.
- Daphne Frias (@frias_daphne on Instagram) is an activist, organizer, and storyteller who is proudly disabled. Not only is she a champion for the disabled community (and often uses her page to inform others on how to be a better ally to disabled people), but she also diligently advocates for pressing social issues such as climate change and gun violence.
- Sara Mora (@misssaramora on Instagram) is a Puerto Rican-born immigrant rights activist who immigrated to the United States with her family when she was just three years old. As an undocumented teenager in New Jersey, she joined the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Today, she’s a leading voice in the fight for immigrants’ rights and is the co-president of Women’s March Youth Empower.
- Ramon Contreras (@ramon.contreras1 on Instagram) is an Afro-Latino public affairs strategist and activist based out of Harlem, New York. After losing his friend to gun violence, Contreras founded Youth Over Guns, an organization dedicated to bringing awareness to gun violence in Black and Latine communities.
Donate to Latine or Hispanic nonprofits and community organizations.
Latine and Hispanic organizations have long been the foundation of communities across the country. We can celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by donating to organizations that understand the needs of diverse Latine and Hispanic communities.
Here are a few nonprofit organizations to support:
- Organizations like RAICES — a Texas-based organization that provides free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees — are at the forefront of the immigration crisis and actively working toward short and long-term solutions.
- GreenLatinos is a national climate-based nonprofit that brings together a broad coalition of Latine grassroots leaders who are diligently advocating for national, regional, and local climate solutions. The organization fosters inclusive collaboration among its members to amplify minority voices, mentor Latine environmental leaders, and fight for our planet.
- The Rio Grande International Study Center is one of many organizations across the U.S. working with its local community to protect and preserve their water supply, its predominantly Mexican-American culture, and land (check out how they helped stop a proposed border wall and successfully advocated for a binational park).
Support Latine- and Hispanic-owned businesses.
Get your holiday shopping done early and help celebrate the culture and creativity of Hispanic and Latine makers by supporting their businesses. Etsy and NOVICA are two online marketplaces that curate beautifully handcrafted goods from Latine people living in and out of the U.S. You can slo seek out Latine and Hispanic small business in your community.
Tell Congress to create a pathway for our 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Contact your elected representatives (by phone or email) and encourage them to strengthen and fortify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy — or better known as DACA.
Ask them to support legislation that creates pathways to citizenship for undocumented students and their families. FWD.us, a bipartisan organization, provides scripts, a toolkit, and helpful tips to get started.
Support local panaderías (Mexican bakeries) or Latine restaurants
In Latine and Hispanic cultures, food could be considered a core love language. From our morning pan dulce con cafe (sweet bread with coffee) to Spanish tapas to savory empanadas, food is the magnetic field that brings people together.
Supporting your local Latine bakeries or restaurants is a crucial way to show your appreciation and support for their labor of love. Want to take it a step further? Ask them if they offer gift cards so you can gift your family or friends a delicious experience too!
Take a dance class with friends and family.
Just like food, dancing is a vital part of the Latine and Hispanic culture. Look into local dance studios (or even restaurants or bars) that offer salsa, bachata, merengue, or flamenco classes.
If you don’t have access to in-person classes, invite your friends over for a virtual dance class (like this one) instead!
Create an informative email auto-response.
Whether or not you’re a part of the Latine or Hispanic community, creating a celebratory email auto-response during this month-long celebration is a thoughtful and inclusive way of shining a light on Hispanic Heritage Month. You can share information about the significance of celebrating this heritage month and can maybe even include a list of local events your colleagues can join in on!
Sharing information with your network about the significance of this commemoration is a great way to further stand in solidarity with your Latine and Hispanic team members.
Highlight Hispanic Heritage Month in your newsletter.
Similar to the email auto-response message, utilizing your current email marketing platform to share more information around this celebratory month could be another opportunity to keep this celebration top-of-mind at work.
This could mean including a sentence or two — or, hey, even an entire section — in your upcoming newsletter acknowledging the significance of this heritage month and how your readers can thoughtfully celebrate. (You can even share this article as a resource!)
Turn your good intentions into real change.
Thoughtful workplace actions should not only be reserved for holidays and awareness months. If you want to help ensure that your good intentions are actually recognizing an underrepresented group in your workplace, it’s going to take some intentional effort.
The Diversity Gap, an organization that coaches race-conscious leaders and teams, offers great workplace resources that you can learn from and incorporate. Their podcast and their book are particularly great starting points.
Take a Spanish language course.
Learning or brushing up on your Spanish is a great way to immerse yourself in the Latine and Hispanic culture. Apps like Duolingo or Endless Spanish (for kiddos) are free to use and help provide you with a good foundation and understanding of the language.
If courses aren’t for you, many people have also turned to Spanish kid's shows or cartoons as a fun and simple way to introduce the language into their home. “El Chavo Del Ocho” is what I grew up watching but online streaming services like Netflix offer a library of Spanish-language options for you to check out!
Take an online cooking class.
Okay, okay, we love our Taco Tuesdays, but there are so many more delicious (and equally simple) meals you can incorporate into your home. Food is another great way to foster an appreciation and understanding during this time.
You can also try checking out bilingual food-related content creators like Dora’s Table (@dorastable on Instagram) for easy, (mostly) healthy, and delicious vegan Mexican recipes!
Watch a Spanish-language show.
If you grew up in a Latine household, you probably know the sound of your favorite telenovela. Today, Netflix shows like “La Casa de Las Flores” (“The House of Flowers”) and “La Casa de Papel” (“Money Heist”) are carrying on that legendary legacy by dishing out all the drama — while centering diverse narratives to a global audience.
For Kids & Students at School
Talk to your kids about representation.
People often tie a lot of their beliefs and values to what they learned at home growing up. We can help celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by having conversations around the dinner table about what this month means to the Hispanic and Latine communities and how we can show support.
Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium (or MAEC) provides parents and teachers with a massive library of Hispanic Heritage Month resources like kid-friendly videos, podcasts, movie and documentary recommendations, and people to follow on Instagram!
Incorporate books written by Latine or Hispanic authors in your curriculum.
Providing students with free, easy access to racially diverse literature through school or in-class libraries is a great way of providing independent learning opportunities in the classroom.
However, we know that many school districts across the U.S. suffer from funding disparities — especially within low-income areas. As a result, many children (and consequently their teachers) are left with a limited selection of books, school supplies, and educational materials.
The First Book Marketplace provides educators, librarians, and others working with low-income children with thousands of free and affordable high-quality, brand-new books, educational resources, and basic needs items at highly affordable prices — or for free.
The Smithsonian Museum’s Latino Learning Center offers teaching collections grouped by themes from performances or interviews with experts.
Have a movie day.
Whether it’s in a classroom or home setting, choosing to show movies that center Hispanic and Latine culture, like The Book of Life, Encanto, and Coco, provide kids with a gorgeous introduction to time-honored cultural traditions that they might not have otherwise been exposed to.
A bonus? These movies are perfect lead-ups to Dia de los Muertos, which is celebrated right after Hispanic Heritage Month!
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the 2023 Hispanic Heritage Month theme?
The 2023 Hispanic Heritage Month theme is “Latinos: Driving Prosperity, Power, and Progress in America,” according to an announcement from the National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers. The theme celebrates the communities’ population growth, increasing political representation, and economic success that continues to pave the way for rise and recognition of Latines as positive contributors to the country.
What was the 2022 Hispanic Heritage Month theme?
The National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers, announced the 2022 Hispanic Heritage Month Observance Theme: “Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation.”
The theme encourages everyone to ensure that all voices are represented and welcomed, an NCHEPM press release announced.
What is Hispanic Heritage Month in Spanish?
In Spanish, El Mes de la Herencia Hispana means Hispanic Heritage Month.
What is the difference between Hispanic and Latino?
While many people use Latino and Hispanic interchangeably, these terms mean two different things.
A Hispanic person is someone who comes from or is a descendant of a Spanish-speaking country. Latine (which is a gender-neutral alternative to Latino and Latina) is used when referring to someone who comes from Latin America or is a descendant from any Latin American country.
A person can be both Hispanic and Latine, however, not all Latinos are Hispanic. For example, Spaniards are considered Hispanic, but not Latine, since they are not geographically located in Latin America.
Which countries are represented in this celebration?
In total, there are 20 Hispanic countries and one territory included in Hispanic Heritage Month: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Is it called Hispanic Heritage Month or Latino Heritage Month?
It is formally recognized as Hispanic Heritage Month, however, it's important to acknowledge that, as discussed, the term does not fully represent every culture that falls under this umbrella.
As a result, you may see it called Latino Heritage Month, Latinx Heritage Month, Latine Heritage Month — or all four. Hispanic Heritage Month is most widely used today — but each of these alternatives are used by different sub-communities. It’s important to be mindful of the context in which you use them.
How long is Hispanic Heritage Month?
Hispanic Heritage Month takes place September 15 to October 15 every year and lasts 30 days total. This heritage month honors the history, culture, and contributions of Hispanic Americans.
When was Hispanic heritage first celebrated in the U.S.?
The U.S. government first commemorated Hispanic Heritage Month in 1988 through legislation. In 1989, President George H. W. Bush gave a Presidential Proclamation in celebration of the month — and every U.S. president since then has continued the tradition.
Before Hispanic Heritage Month was commemorated in the United States, it was honored annually as Hispanic Heritage Week.
Next month is Native American Heritage Month — get a head start learning how to celebrate Native American Heritage Month today.
And don’t forget to learn about more Hispanic and Latin American holidays beyond Hispanic Heritage Month.