Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month

Starting on September 15 many people, businesses, and organizations will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

Observations started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and were expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30 day period starting.

“The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence of Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18 respectively,” Lisa Martinez, SHS Spanish teacher, stated.

Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures, and contributions of Hispanic and Latinx Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

This year the school is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in various ways. Spanish classes and World Culture Club are spreading awareness around the school through lessons and decorations. Along with this they are highlighting and comparing and contrasting Spanish speaking countries as well as recognizing and celebrating Hispanic and Latinx members of our school and community. Spanish teachers Anna Smith-Garcia and Martinez want everyone to be on the lookout for specials on Seaman Viking Television, a World Culture Club piñata event, and lastly, Spanish-language music for the minute bell on the last week of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Despite a variety of exhibits and celebrations, there are a few common misconceptions about Hispanic Heritage Month. First, not all Spanish-speaking countries are similar to Mexico; just because they share a language doesn’t mean they share everything. For example, most people don’t know that most Spanish-speaking countries don’t have spicy food! Another one is to not assume that if someone is Hispanic, they are of Mexican heritage. SHS’s own Mrs. Smith-Garcia was born in El Salvador and later moved to the United States.

“I thought I would not see any Hispanic-Latino influence in America history,” Smith-Garcia states.

When Smith Garcia lived in Florida, she was able to see the Spanish history that has been there since the 1800s but after moving closer to the Mississippi and seeing more Spanish history, this has made her feel part of America and welcomed to this country that is new to her.

Various companies such as Target, Old Navy, and Walmart are selling Hispanic Heritage Month products in a way that celebrates all Hispanic heritage and supports Latinx vendors. While it is cool to see this becoming mainstream, whether it is Hispanic Heritage Month, Day of the Dead, Cinco de Mayo, or other celebrations, we should remember to respect the culture and people the celebration originates from and exits within.

“We should never participate in another culture’s celebration solely based on our own assumptions. For example, it would be highly offensive to dress up in sombreros and eat tacos just because you heard it was Mexican Independence Day. That is called cultural appropriation. If you are going to celebrate, make sure you know what you are celebrating. And remember, it’s not the job of people from another culture to educate you. If you want to be part of things, go educate yourself,” says Martinez.

Martinez suggests that something neat to do instead would be to talk to any Hispanic family and friends you know and learn something new from them. Also shopping at local Hispanic-owned businesses supports the culture and allows you to learn something new. Make sure, however, that you show respect and appreciation for the culture while learning.

“Tell them you are grateful to them for sharing their talents and culture with you,” Martinez said.

You can learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month by visiting the display at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, where several universities have exhibits and celebrations. Many other events will pop up throughout the month that you can participate in. You can check out their website for an updated listing!

Students in Mrs.Martinez class decorated the halls to celebrate Spanish Heritage Month. (Alyssa Boos)