If your home is anything like ours, Disney’s Coco has been on heavy rotation on our streaming lineup since its debut. As Latinos, my kids Auggie, 8, and Luca, 5, were astonished to see their language and culture reflected on a big screen. While our Hispanic heritage is Puerto Rican and Cuban—not Mexican like the family in Coco—the mere mention of a chancleta (slipper) in a Disney film had them beaming with pride. That pride is something that gets nurtured year-round in our home, but for one whole month in the fall, it gets turned up a notch.
Whether you’re Latino like us or a non-Latino household, learning about Hispanic Heritage Month will benefit your entire family.
What is Hispanic Heritage Month?
Like Black History month in February, Women’s History Month in March and LGBTQ Pride throughout June, National Hispanic Heritage Month educates, celebrates and honors the contributions of an often underrepresented and marginalized group of people. In this case, American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America: U.S. Hispanics.
When is Hispanic Heritage Month?
Hispanic Heritage Month is unique as it doesn’t start and end within the same month. Instead, it starts on September 15, to honor the independence days of several Latin American countries, and ends on October 15.
On September 17, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Hispanic Heritage Week bill, stating in part that it “wishes to pay special tribute to the Hispanic tradition, and having in mind the fact that our five Central American neighbors celebrate their Independence Day on the fifteenth of September and the Republic of Mexico on the sixteenth.” Twenty years later, in 1988, President Ronald Reagan passed a law expanding the week to an entire month.
Why is Hispanic Heritage Month important?
By now, you’ve likely seen #representationmatters across your social media feeds—and there’s no way around it: representation does matter. One in four kids in the United States is of Hispanic origin, which means that your kids are very likely to be surrounded by children whose rich culture and diverse origins are frequently overlooked. For Latino kids, a month devoted to the contributions their ancestors have made to American society can reap enormous benefits. After all, research shows that a lack of representation in media, for example, can lead to negative psychological results for individuals whose identities are under- or misrepresented. So, when kids have a strong sense of cultural self, from language to traditions to the impact their heritage has had on society, they feel seen.
But the benefits of celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month don’t stop with Hispanic children. Teaching any child about other people’s cultures allows them to respect and celebrate the differences in all people and builds essential skills like critical thinking and problem solving.
How to celebrate with kids
Forget about having a formal conversation around the family dinner table about the impact of Hispanics on American society. Instead, use casual, everyday moments and activities this month to celebrate our heritage. Story time and iPad hour both provide the perfect atmosphere to immerse your family in our history, culture and language! Here are some easy ideas to get your started.