What is Hispanic Heritage Month all about and why is it celebrated?
Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15 every year in the United States. The month serves to engender a greater understanding and deeper appreciation for the contributions of the Hispanic peoples to the United States. It’s a time when the history, cultures, language and traditions of the Hispanic community are celebrated and explored. It is hoped that through this observance, pertinent conversations will be had, new connections discovered and cultural diversity will be embraced.
Here are some key facts about the history of Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations:
President Lyndon Johnson introduced Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968.
President Ronald Reagan expanded the observance in 1988 to cover the current 30-day period.
It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.
September 15 marks the independence of several Latin American countries. A few others celebrate their independence within this 30-day timeframe.
For more info on the history of this month, check out https://www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov/
Museums, libraries, schools at all levels and community spaces across the country host events and plan activities throughout the month to celebrate Hispanic culture. Adults and children alike are invited to participate in a wonderful exploration of cultural diversity. I’ve put together a list of possible Hispanic Heritage Month activities that can suit a wide age range and interests.
The Ultimate List of Hispanic Heritage Month Activities by Over The Andes
1. Make a favourite Hispanic dish: I love food and how flavours and methods of cooking can well-represent culture. Moving beyond tacos and burritos, why don’t you try your hand at making some Costa Rican Gallo Pinto or some Cuban Ropa Vieja. Do you like chocolate… in savoury dishes? Try a Mexican Mole Sauce.
2. Brush up on geography: I created a project guide to help young learners discover the geographical features of South America. This project will help them discover the amazing Andes Mountains, the Amazon Jungle and the Amazon River. After reading up on these incredible places, explorers are challenged to create a 3D map. Check out the fun facts and maps included in the project guide. (Get guide here). Go beyond South America. Pull up some maps of Central America too and locate countries you hear about in the news.
3. Learn the difference between Hispanic and Latino: We may be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and talking a lot about Latin America, however, the terms Hispanic and Latino are very different. Start your exploration of these differences with this blog post.
4. Learn a Latin American legend or folktale: Children’s books present these tales in a fun and easy to read way. You can teach your young ones while you expand your own horizons along with them. I enjoy reading The Llama’s Secret with my boys. This Peruvian legend, with echoes of Noah’s Ark, also helps explain why the llama is so cherished in Andean cultures. Another story my family loves is ‘Twas Nochebuena, which tells the story of how Christmas is celebrated in Mexico, and includes lots of Spanish words too!
5. Read a full-length novel set in a Latin American country: Choose one or several books set in Hispanic America or written by Hispanic authors to deepen your knowledge of the region and cultures. I adore Isabel Allende and never hesitate to recommend A House of Spirits to anyone interested in historical fiction set in Pinochet’s Chile. If you’re looking for something a touch lighter and with a bit of romance, try Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year in Havana.
6. Create Papel Picado: While I despair at my artistic disability, even I can get this fun and colourful craft right. Here are some easy to follow instructions from Think Make Share to get these festive decorations created. Use them in your Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations.
7. Create a Hispanic Heritage Month poster: Just google the term and you can find tons of ideas or even access posters to buy. Why not make your own? Here are some ideas for your posters: Flags of Hispanic countries, names of Hispanic countries, food from Hispanic countries, Hispanic celebrities…
8. Attend a lecture on an aspect of Hispanic culture or host one of your own. If your organisation can afford it, here is a list of AAE Speakers for Hispanic Heritage. It might be even more meaningful if you find someone within your own community who is able and willing to speak at your lecture. Got a good projector? Invite someone from another city or country to speak via webcam!
9. Learn to write in Mayan: At least your name, that is! GEO6HMS has provided a detailed, easy to follow worksheet on writing Mayan glyphs. See if you can figure out how the syllables of your name come together in Mayan. You can also check out PaleoAliens for an automatic translator of your name or any other words into Mayan.
10. Start learning Spanish or deepen your skills: There are so many great language learning apps like Duolingo, Babbel, Memrise etc to help language enthusiasts these days. Give yourself the 30 days of Hispanic Heritage Month to learn some new expressions and grammar. Search online for a 30 day language challenge to get some fun and useful prompts.
Ten is a lovely, rounded number but I wanted to give you even more! So I scoured the web to find additional ideas, resources and activities to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. I’ve provided links to original posters in each instance.
Scholastic suggests some really entertaining activities for younger students. I picked out a couple of my favourites here:
- Zapotec Rug Paintings: No time to weave so recreate these beautiful geometric rugs from Mexico using paint. Begin with a sheet of poster board for each student. Using rulers and pencils, draw zigzag, stair-step, and straight lines across the poster board. Incorporate angular shapes such as diamonds and triangles. Once the pencil layout is complete, use poster paints or markers to fill in the design.
- Grow a Heritage Garden: Plant staple crops common in many Spanish-speaking countries, such as corn, beans, squash, and peppers. Have students keep a log tracking the growth of the various plants. Extend the project by researching staple foods of other regions.
- Adopt a City: Select a world city to “adopt,” such as your city’s international sister city. Display photos of people and places, as well as a clock set to the local time. Have students report on local news events.
- Musical Stories: Give students the beginning paragraph of a traditional Hispanic folktale, and then play a selection of Hispanic music to inspire them to write the end of the story. Is the music sad or happy? On what kind of occasion would this music be played?
For the other 20 activities on their list, head over to the Scholastic website.
We won’t leave out university students or working adults! FindSpark put together a list of 10 activities suited to campus and/ or office life. Here are a couple:
- Host a potluck: Invite everyone to bring a dish from one Latinx country and provide a short summary of the dish and its history.
- Do an office Charity: Make a donation to Hispanic/LatinX focused causes. There are tons of ways to rally people around making a donation. For example, you can do a 50/50 raffle or help people clean up their closet by doing an in-office or on-campus clothing drive.
- Go on a cultural field trip: Do an office outing or campus event to support a local Hispanic establishment, restaurant, museum, venue.
To check out the other 7 suggested activities, click here for the FindSpark article.
Mari Eugenia over at Inspired by Family has several super pretty and useful craft posts showing unique Hispanic Heritage Month craft ideas with photos and detailed instructions. I’ve selected two of her posts for you to check out.
- Piñatas have long been a favourite Mexican family tradition. It even dates back to the Aztecs. Check out Mari’s 8 Creative Ways to Make a Piñata.
- Repujado: The process of working a rounded tool on the back side of soft metal to create a beautiful piece of raised art is called Repujado. Read Mari’s post on How to Make A Mexican Cuff Bracelet.
You can find 10 more of her suggested Hispanic Heritage Month activities for kids by clicking here.
Spanish Mama (Elisabeth) is one of my favourite blogs to find great ideas for promoting Spanish language learning and spreading cultural awareness of Latin America. Last year I featured her curated list of Hispanic Heritage Month activity ideas, and I’m bringing her back because her list is simply awesome! Here are a couple of my favourites:
- Folk Songs in Spanish for kids: Music is a great way for kids to become aware of different languages and cultures. Elisabeth put together this list of 20 lullabies/ songs for kids in Spanish.
- G and PG rated movies for kids: This list features movies appropriate for a young audience. Most contain some words in Spanish and touch on various aspects of Hispanic culture. Click over to Elisabeth’s list of Spanish movies for kids.
If you click on the link, you’ll be taken to Spanish Mama’s Ultimate Guide to Hispanic Heritage Month Activities.
Becky is the force behind Kid World Citizen and she put together her list of Hispanic Heritage Month resources and activities. It’s a wonderfully informative and inspiring list. I wish I could try them all out. I’m highlighting a few for you here.
- Create your own Mexican Amate Paintings: This Mexican folk art is painted on special paper produced from the fibers of the bark of fig trees, called amate. Beginning in pre-Hispanic times, different indigenous groups used the amate to communicate with others. Becky’s post gives you some more history and takes you through the creative process step by step.
- Rock Art for kids using Taínos Petroglyphs: All you need is rocks, permanent markers and the Taíno symbols, for which the links are provided. Guest blogger Frances Evans also shares some amazing photos and detailed instructions.
- Create a 3D salt map of a Hispanic country: Oh my goodness, I want to try this with my kids too! Time to get your hands dirty. Using their hands, have your kids mix together 4 cups of flour, 2 cups of salt, 2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar. For the rest of the instructions and how-to photos, click over to Becky’s post.
- Read about Hispanic role models and share their stories with your kids: In this post, Becky shares the biographies of 5 famous Latinos, plus resources to learn about their contributions to US society: an astronaut, a teacher, an author, an athlete, and a scientist.
Please do click over to her website to discover 30 more exciting activities and resources.
- Bonus Activity | Enrol in my FREE mini-course to learn all about Hispanic and Latino culture and sub-cultures. By the end of this course, made up of four 5-minute videos, you’ll be able to identify Latin American countries on a map and the characteristics of the three main sub-regions of Latin America. You’ll be able to describe cultural differences amongst people of Latin America and be inspired to explore even more about the region. I hope you’ll then apply your new knowledge to Hispanic Heritage Month activities near to you!
If you add up all the ideas here and the ones linked to, you’ve got over 100 Hispanic Heritage Month ideas. I’m positive you’ll find a few that can work for you!
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