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5 Fun Ways To Learn About Hispanic Culture During Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month takes place each year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. This 30-day period is a time to acknowledge and celebrate the history and culture of Hispanic people and their ancestors.

Hispanic Heritage Month was established in 1968 and officially signed into law in 1988. The start date of Sept. 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Additionally, Mexico’s independence date is Sept. 16 and Chile’s is Sept. 18.

Each year, Hispanic Heritage Month follows a theme. The theme for 2023 is “prosperity, power, and progress,” seeking to emphasize the economic, political, and social contributions of Hispanic Americans. Whether you’re celebrating HHM for the first time or you’ve been doing it your whole life, there are so many ways to celebrate in 2023 that are both fun and educational.

Learn about Hispanic Changemakers.

One way to specifically celebrate this year’s HHM theme of prosperity, power, and progress is to learn about both past and present Hispanic changemakers. Throughout American history, Hispanic individuals have made incredible strides despite the racism and discrimination that many have faced. Websites like Hip Latina are a great place to start if you’re looking to learn more about Hispanic changemakers like Ellen Ochea (the first Latina woman to go to space) or Sonia Sotomayor (the first Latina Supreme Court Justice). You can also listen to podcasts like The Latin American History Podcast, which will teach you some important history you may not have learned about in school.

Read books by Hispanic authors.

Another way to learn about and celebrate Hispanic heritage is to read books by Hispanic authors. It is notably more difficult for Hispanic authors to get published as frequently as white authors, so now is the perfect time to pick books written about Hispanic characters or by Hispanic authors from your TBR list. Here are a few suggestions:

This novel follows Xiomara Batista, an Afro-Latina teenage girl who is navigating familial and emotional conflict. Xiomara expresses herself through poetry, and eventually decides to join her school’s slam poetry club. The Poet X is Acevedo’s debut novel, written as a series of Xiomara’s poems.

Dominicana is a coming-of-age story about a 15-year-old girl named Ana who dreams of moving to America. After marrying a man twice her age, Ana moves to New York City and learns the “American Dream” isn’t everything she hoped it would be. The story follows Ana as she has to decide between her own heart and happiness and her duty to her family.

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza is an autobiography about the Chicano experience through the lens of intersectionality. Anzaldúa includes a collection of essays and poems in this book, covering topics from her own family history to the injustices of the immigration system in America. This book is the perfect non-fiction read for HHM.

Esperanza Rising is a middle-grade novel about a young girl forced to move from Mexico to California during the Great Depression. Although the book was written for younger readers, it includes important information about issues like immigration and unfair labor. This book will resonate for younger and older readers alike.

Learn a traditional recipe from a Latin American country.

While Mexican cuisine has become a staple in many American households (Taco Tuesday, anyone?), Mexico is just one of over 20 countries in Latin America. Each other country has their own food traditions and delicious recipes, so why not try one of them out during HHM? Just a few recipe ideas are ropa vieja (Cuba), arroz con dulce (Puerto Rico), or pupusas (El Salvador). No worries if you’re not a chef — you can also do some exploring to find restaurants in your area that serve up all of these dishes and more.

Celebrate art made by Hispanic artists.

So many of the world’s most famous artists have Hispanic heritage: Think of artists like Frida Kahlo or Pablo Picasso! Latin America also has its own unique art styles, including indigenous traditions that are awe-inspiring to look at now. It’s definitely worth doing some research to see if museums near you have collections by Hispanic artists that you can visit in person or check out online.

If paintings and sculptures aren’t your thing, learning about Latin American influences on music is just as powerful. Whether you’re learning about the history of music styles or enjoying modern music by artists like Selena, Shakira, or Jennifer Lopez, you’re sure to discover something great. Spotify has even put together a dedicated page full of playlists, if you need a place to get started.

Learn a new style of dance.

Latin dances are some of the most famous styles of dance in the world. Odds are you’ve heard of dances like salsa, merengue, or tango, even if you don’t know the actual steps. HHM is the perfect time to sign up for a salsa class at your local dance studio or watch YouTube videos about bachata or reggaeton. Music is an important part of Latin culture, and listening to a new style of music or learning a few new dance moves is a great way to appreciate the cultural impact it has had.

Most importantly, during Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond, it is important to be respectful of other cultures. Listen to marginalized voices and join in the celebrations in a respectful way, always be open to learning more, and celebrate the prosperity, power, and progress of Hispanic people — whether it’s Hispanic Heritage Month or not.

Jordyn Stapleton has been a National Lifestyle Writer for Her Campus since February 2023. She covers a variety of topics in her articles, but is most passionate about writing about mental health and social justice issues. Jordyn graduated from CU Boulder in December 2022 with Bachelor’s degrees in music and psychology with a minor in gender studies and a certificate in public health. Jordyn was involved in Her Campus during college, serving as an Editorial Assistant and later Editor-in-Chief for the CU Boulder chapter. She has also worked as a freelance stringer for the Associated Press. Jordyn is currently taking a gap year and working at a local business in Boulder, with hopes of attending graduate school in fall 2024. Jordyn enjoys reading, bullet journalling, and listening to (preferably Taylor Swift) music in her free time. If she isn’t brainstorming her next article, you can usually find her exploring coffee shops or hiking trails around Boulder with her friends.