Updated: May 10
How much do you know about Hispanic Heritage Month?
While Lyndon B. Johnson actually began the tradition as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, the observation was expanded by Ronald Regan twenty years later to run for an entire month (woohoo!). Therefore, as of August 17th, 1988, it has been enacted a law that this time is nationally dedicated to the celebration and appreciation of Hispanic cultures.
This year, and every year since ‘88, National Hispanic Heritage Month will officially be kicking off on September 15th and will run through October 15th. The start date marks a significant day for five Latin American countries - Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua - because it is the anniversary of their collective independence (double woohoo!!) from Spain. In fact, at least four other Latin American countries including Mexico and Chile have their independence day in September! In honor of all this delicious freedom, the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration runs from September all the way through the middle of October. So let’s get down to celebrating and bring some awareness to this fabulous occasion.
Okay - actually wait, before we get down, let’s talk numbers. Believe it or not, Hispanic people represent nearly 20% of the US population. This makes them the second-largest racial group in the country, with about 60.5 million people identifying as Hispanic or Latinx. Those numbers are extremely impressive, but what may be even more impressive is that an entire 13% of Americans speak Spanish at home. That’s equivalent to about 37 million people across the country, or almost a whole seventh of the population.
What's more, in states such as California, Texas, and New Mexico, the population of Hispanic people actually approaches the majority. And yet, despite these staggering statistics, Latinx people are a largely marginalized group with very poor representation. As is true of most minorities, they continue to suffer from societal inequalities in our modern world and must persevere for justice.
In observing Hispanic Heritage Month this September, attention, and awareness can be brought to the rich cultures that comprise this group, as well as a show of appreciation for their vast contributions. In doing so, a platform is given to these voices which are so often stifled, and an excellent celebration of their ability, art, values (and more) can commence!
There’s an unbelievable number of great ways you can involve yourself in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, and all of them are as fun as they are valuable. If you aren't sure where to begin, use this as a resource, and know that any way that you can show your appreciation for a Latinx-owned business would be an excellent place to start. In directing your funds and other resources toward small businesses owned by people of Hispanic descent, you are helping to grow their platform, and enabling them to keep their place. Doing this means creating more opportunities for these business owners to improve their credit, own property, and build their bank accounts - while this may seem important for all people, it is imperative to minority groups.
If people of color can generate meaningful income and gain wealth, it can break generational cycles of poverty and close the racial gaps evident in American society. In choosing to eat at a restaurant owned by a Hispanic person, you will not only be showing your appreciation and bringing awareness to the cause, but you will actively be fueling the business endeavor that can help them gain the equal opportunity they deserve - now doesn't that sound fantastic??
Remember, spending your money certainly isn't the only way to show your appreciation - you don’t only need to buy from them! Other wonderful ways to demonstrate support include spreading the word and telling your family and friends about their contribution, or writing online reviews to promote the quality of their business and draw in more customers. Another excellent way is by simply making an effort to skip services that represent the more entitled majority - such as choosing Etsy over Amazon next time you're looking to buy a gift for someone (or for you!).
So, if you’re looking to raise awareness and say thanks, get out there and eat some fabulous Latin Cuisine, appreciate the work of Latin artists and musicians, take a Salsa class, donate and bring awareness to charities - the options are endless, and they’re all good. Need a place to start? Check out these!
TAKE AN IMPROV CLASS
Have you ever wanted to try improv? It’s never been easier than now! Sign up for a virtual class with Jose Miguel and you will not only learn about classic improv techniques but about culture! Jose is an actor and a trained anthropologist from Mexico who has combined his two loves into this Fun and Games Improv Class - you will not be disappointed.
PAPEL PICADO BY YREINA FLORES
You won’t believe these traditional Mexican banners known as papel picado! They are made of fine, often brightly colored paper, and are intricately cut to depict all sorts of messages and designs. Here are some which are delicately made by artist Yreina Flores, and are available on her Etsy shop - perfect for weddings, parties, alters, or just to add color to a room!
Alright, now let’s get a little more specific. While Hispanic people represent 20% of the US population, they also represent 20% of the population of New York State. However, zeroing in on New York City, the numbers crank up to nearly a third, in that 30% of the residents there are indeed Hispanic. While these numbers represent all five boroughs, nothing holds a candle to the Latinx presence in Queens, specifically in areas such as Jackson Heights, Corona, and Elmhurst.
In fact, Queens is the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world, as no ethnic group holds a 50% majority there. The neighborhoods on the East side specifically show vast Hispanic influence, representing and appreciating dozens of different Latin cultures. Looking at early immigration patterns, it is likely that many Hispanic people, specifically Ecuadorians, Mexicans, Argentinians, and Columbians, have been in areas such as Jackson Heights and Elmhurst for generations.
People of all different Latin nationalities live alongside each other there, and as you stroll down a busy block you’ll undoubtedly see the colorful flags and smell the fantastic cuisine of not only aforementioned countries such as Mexico, and Ecuador, but of Peru, El Salvador, Brasil, and more. With such a large population of Hispanic people living there, the streets are thick with celebrations of their unique cultures - not only in September of course but all year round! There are so many resources out there about the Latinx businesses in the Queens and NYC area you can support, but I’ve compiled a couple of my favorites here to give you a place to start. See what you think:
LA VECINA RESTAURANT
I was looking for a great Hispanic family-owned spot to eat in Queens, and then spent 30 minutes lost in this menu dreaming about eating their food, so, it absolutely made the top of the list. If you’re around Astoria Queens, you absolutely must check out La Vecina. Rather than representing just one culture in their foods, they demonstrate a Latin fusion with mastery. Their menu covers a huge variety of incredible flavors, from building your own arepa bowl, yuca croquettes, sweet plantains with cheese, and the Columbian classic Bandeja has done in half a dozen different ways. I can’t say enough about this place - please go. Just please do it. (Covid got you worried about eating at a restaurant? Don't worry - I made sure they do delivery too! Find them on seamless)
Need something to read? Find what you're looking for at Mil Mundos, a “Bushwick Activist Spanglish Bookstore” (what an absolute treat). Many of their titles are available in both English and Spanish (catering to what is actually the dominant language spoken in Bushwick - Spanish! Just saying), and feature topics that celebrate, appreciate, and bring awareness to Black, Latinx, and Indigenous heritages. You can buy from their storefront, or just search the title you’re looking for on their website. Not only is this an excellent way to support a Hispanic-owned business, but it’s also an excellent way to gain some resources to further educate yourself on the cultures and contributions of marginalized people - a total win-win!!
Finally, let’s talk about a way to get EVERYONE involved in a (covid safe!!) celebration of Hispanic culture and, more specifically, Mexico! I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but virtual classes have been all the rage during the pandemic, and the ones that provide you with all the materials you’ll need really hold a special place in my heart. Seriously, companies like Food Craft send you and your friends a kit in the mail that has all the materials you’ll need for their classes - you make a Zoom or google meet link, log in with your pals, and they walk you through the recipes.
No kidding. Just in time for Hispanic Heritage Month this September, they’re showing their appreciation for Latin culture by taking you on a virtual trip to Mexico! The majority of the kits they’re selling this quarter revolve around the classics like an authentic Hot Sauce Making virtual experience guided by Hispanic ost & instructor.
What’s even better is that the creator and founder of Food Craft is a Filipina - in supporting Food Craft this September, you’re not only appreciating and showing awareness for Hispanic Heritage Month with the trip to Mexico, but you’re supporting a woman of color owned business-building opportunities for other women. Now tell me, what could be better?
So there you have it - a small database of resources to help you celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month this September, complete with Latinx subscription boxes, Etsy sellers, restaurant owners, bookstores, virtual trips to Mexico, and more! Hispanic Heritage Month not only invites Hispanic people to embrace their backgrounds and the contributions of their culture but to feel proud of who they are and where they came from.
Showing your appreciation is imperative, and focusing on giving back to their communities is an excellent way to do it. Remember that celebrating this September will absolutely help bring awareness to the cause, but should in no way just be a trend. Regardless of the month, supporting minorities and marginalized groups of people is a lifestyle 100% worth living, 100% of the time! Happy Hispanic Heritage Month y’all!!
Celebrate with friends, family, and colleagues. Contact the Food Craft team and check out the Hot Sauce Making class here!