Why 'Hispanic' Heritage Month?

Why 'Hispanic' Heritage Month?

On September 17, 1968, Public Law 90-498 was proposed as a Joint Resolution to celebrate the week including September 15 and 16 as “National Hispanic Heritage Week,” “calling upon the people of the United States, especially the education community, to observe such week with appropriate celebrations and activities.” This week, first proclaimed by President Lyndon Johnson, was expanded to a month during the Regan presidency.

Officially, the name is “Hispanic” Heritage Month. The word Hispanic is a loaded word in the Latinx community. This is addressed in our original content titled, “Celebrating Hispanic Americans.” For many, it is the name provided by the colonizers of the land from Mexico to the southernmost tip of Chile. The root of the word Hispanic comes from Hispañola, the name granted to the first island settled in the name of Spain in the Americas. Today, that island is known as Haiti and Dominican Republic.

Many Latinx are passionate about the use of the word for that reason and others. Hispanics are assumed to be Spanish speakers--but not all Latin American countries have Spanish as a main language; not all descendants of Latin American countries speak Spanish; there were indigenous populations in many Latin American countries before the presence of the colonizers, and Spanish is not their native tongue--so why did we use the word?

We have been very intentional about the use of the word Hispanic because it refers to the nationally proclaimed 30-day long celebration. We want teachers and classrooms of all backgrounds to celebrate the rich culture of Latinx people, beginning with the history of the the celebration as it was first named. We have provided culturally responsive content and pedagogy in our Text Set. And we believe it reflects the backgrounds of many proud Latinx people who will engage with the Text Set.

Angel Geden, M.Ed., is Newsela’s Director of Instructional Content.

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