Cultural Competency

Have We Neglected Hispanic Heritage Month?

We are nearing the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, and the mention, celebration, and media coverage in New York City  are extremely underwhelming. The most discussion in the media about Hispanic peoples has been around Trump’s idea to build a wall and keep out the Mexican immigrants. I’ve yet to see any positive celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month on the news or within our communities. As a result, I sat down to write this blog post.

How has Hispanic heritage been celebrated over the years?

The lack of events and information on where to find the celebrations of Hispanic Heritage Month is nothing new. Hispanic Heritage Month has been often neglected from celebration in our schools and within the media. Occasionally, when someone famous in the Hispanic community passes away, there’s a little bit of reflection on how they’ve contributed to the Hispanic and American cultures.

I think back to when I was in elementary school and what I learned about Hispanic culture; it amounted to a potluck presentation on Spain or in high school, Elena Ochoa from Bogota, Colombia, from the Spanish textbooks. Think back, what was your own experience?

Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.

In February, we celebrate Black History Month. The media will run a segment on Black History and share celebrations happening in our communities throughout the month. I recall a full month of learning about Martin Luther King Jr. in school (Yet another issue: there does need to be more information and celebration of other great Black Americans). Both Black history and Hispanic heritage should be integrated into our schools curriculum throughout the year, from the perspective of our peoples. The information that we do learn about is usually from a “white” male perspective and not from the perspective of the cultures or race we are learning about.

With this said, and with 55 million Hispanic and Latino peoples make up the American population, why are we not hearing about and celebrating Hispanic heritage?

Why are we not giving Hispanic Heritage Month the accolades it deserves?

Hispanic Dancer

I live in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood in New York City. I’ve yet to see any flyer, information, or resources at all this month. I started polling neighbors and Hispanic people in other communities to find out how this is possible. Everyone I asked gave this question a lot of thought, and these were some of the thoughts behind the lack  of awareness, events, and celebrations surrounding Hispanic Heritage Month.

Number 1Hispanic Heritage Month falls in the beginning of the school year, and with the start of school, it gets lost in the shuffle.

 

Number 2It falls between two months (from mid-September to mid-October), so it is often forgotten. It doesn’t even have a whole month to itself.

 

Number 3Hispanic Heritage Month has minimal media coverage promoting local events and celebrations, so people don’t know if there are any celebrations happening.

 

Number 4Many people just don’t care or even know about the important contributions made to their own culture let alone Hispanic cultures.

 

Number 5Until recently, many Hispanics have been taught to blend into the background. If possible, to hide their culture, and try to assimilate with larger society.

 

Number 6We have grown accustomed to having our own celebrations of pride. In New York City, there are festivals in the streets for the Puerto Rican and Dominican Day Parade. Every weekend is a party!

 

Number 6There is a lack of understanding about Hispanic cultures and race. If people don’t know anything about Hispanic cultures, why would they celebrate them?

 

Let’s test your knowledge of Hispanic heritage…

Name 10 Hispanic people who have contributed to American culture or have paved the way for other Hispanic and Latinos. You can only use one singer and actor/actress, and no cheating – by looking up answers on the internet.

How easy was it to come up with this list?

So, when is Hispanic Heritage Month?

You would be surprised at how many people don’t actually know when Hispanic Heritage Month falls. On September 15, 1968, National Hispanic Heritage Week was started. This date was chosen because five Latin American countries, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, all celebrate the anniversary of their independence. In 1988, Hispanic Heritage Month was expanded to cover a 30-day period, ending on October 15.

What can we do to reengage people in learning about Hispanic cultures?

Hispanic ArtAlthough Hispanic heritage should be discussed all year, however, Hispanic Heritage Month does provide an opportunity to honor and learn about the amazing men and women who have contributed to and made a difference in our country and to Hispanic cultures. There are many great Hispanic peoples who have contributed to our country’s culture, civil rights, arts, etc.

Number 1We can start by focusing on providing information to our young people. Schools are the perfect platform for that . This is a great opportunity to discuss how our past heritage, and the heritage of others, has influenced our present. The schools should start by providing information and resources such as; lesson plans, books, documentaries, and websites.

 

Number 2Integrate Hispanic achievements into the everyday curriculum. Highlight the positive contributions from the many Hispanic countries that have contributed to our culture.

 

Number 3Invite parents and caregivers to get involved in the celebrations and activities created for the students. Celebrate the customs, language, and foods of the numerous Hispanic Countries.

 

Number 4Use social media as a platform to advertise community celebrations, information, and exhibits.

 

Number 5Have families share their experiences, customs, and knowledge of their culture.

 

Resources for Hispanic Heritage Month:

When I did a search for Hispanic Heritage Month, there was limited information. I compiled some of the resources that I’ve found which provides some good information and lesson plans.

Hispanic Heritage Foundation offers information on Hispanic Heritage year-round. The site provides information, events, and honors. According to their site, “The Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) is an award-winning nonprofit that identifies, inspires, prepares and positions Latino leaders in the classroom, community and workforce to meet America’s priorities.”

Hispanic Heritage Month.org will provide you with some basic facts about Hispanic Heritage Month.

National Education Association encompasses a wide variety of topics; this includes lesson plans for grades K-12, teaching strategies, current issues, grants, and events.

National Hispanic Heritage Month site provides a list of where you could find exhibits on Hispanic works of art in the U.S. It also offers resources and lesson plans that can be used in the classroom.

PBS provides several documentary series on the histories and experiences of Latinos.

Scholastic offers free lesson plans and curriculums for teachers, and information for parents/caregivers and children.

 

Can you shed more light on why we need to celebrate Hispanic Heritage within our communities and ideas you may have in celebrating Hispanic heritage?

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