Outschool prides itself on the value of nurturing a rich and diverse community and a big part of this comes from our Latinx teachers and families! We celebrate them this fall as we commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15th - October 15th. Communities across the country celebrate at home with books, movies, music, and interactive activities. Join us with a history or a Spanish language class to commemorate the month as your learners enjoy enriching content they can learn and grow from.
How did HHW start?
Hispanic Heritage Week was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, on the sponsorship of Representative Esteban Edward Torres to commemorate the diversity and collaboration of Hispanics to the United States.
The timing of this mid-month celebration is a nod to the anniversary of the independence of eight different Spanish-speaking countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Chile, and Belize.
Some historical background...
Spain was the first European imperialist power in what is now known as the Americas, and the impact of that colonization has created a multicultural network of people who are descendants of Europeans, Native Americans, and other cultures. Some individuals also represent the enslaved Asians and Africans that were a part of Spain’s colonial occupation.
The descendants of these Spanish-speaking cultures are collectively referred to as Hispanic, although this designation is not interchangeable with Latinx and some believe it to be an umbrella term that doesn’t acknowledge differences in language, class, culture, and race.
Latinx/o/a refers mostly to geography, specifically people originating from Latin and Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Similar to the term Hispanic, the designation Latinx does not define race: Latinx people may be White, Black, Indigenous, Asian, or any other mixed-race people.
The ‘x’ in Latinx is a modernized representation of the gendered language of Latino/Latina that has been popularized through contemporary internet culture. This gender-neutral version has been growing in popularity in recent years as a way to identify and inclusively represent gender non-conforming and non-binary individuals from the Latin community.
While the terminology representing diverse groups is always evolving, there is some discourse surrounding the naming of HHM and whether or not it needs to be updated.
Because colonialism was the catalyst that sparked the development of many modern cultures, and the term ‘Hispanic’ has ties to Spain, that colonization evokes images of brutality and domination of the indigenous groups that once called the Americas home. Terms like Hispanic (and even Latinx) don’t explicitly account for Indigenous, Asian or African roots, which can be isolating to individuals who exist at the intersections of these identities.
Celebrating differences and intersectionality
The cultural diversity of intersectional groups throughout Latin America has given rise to some of the most vibrant and noteworthy creative expressions. From the 16th to the 19th century, more than one million Africans were taken to Cuba as part of the Transatlantic slave trade, and by the 1840s, slaves constituted half of Cuba’s population. The development of the Afro-Cuban music scene has left its mark on popular culture by weaving African rituals and rhythms into the Spanish language and vocal traditions like with the well-known Cuban group Buena Vista Social Club.
This cultural integration gave birth to many musical genres that we enjoy today such as rumba, mambo, salsa, and even jazz. Along with the music, so comes Latin Dances which will definitely get your little ones feeling the rhythm!
Another fascinating cultural amalgam can be found in the combination of traditional Peruvian cuisine with traditional Cantonese ingredients and methods in the form of a culinary tradition called Chifa. Chinese immigrants from southern provinces immigrated to Peru in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first Chinese–Peruvian fusion restaurants started appearing circa 1920 in Lima's “Barrio Chino” and have since spread to neighboring countries like Ecuador, Chile, and Bolivia. Try your hand at reproducing a taste of this delicious and unique cuisine with a Lomo Saltado!
Indigenous roots still have a major place in the Latin American landscape and are a key part of the tourism industry. The handwrought stone monuments of an ancient Mayan city called Chichén Itza still stand today in Yucatan, Mexico as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. As one of the largest cities of the Mayan empire, it is a monument to pre-colonial advances in astrological, architectural, and artistic disciplines. The ruins are visited by over 2 million people a year and are some of the only remnants of a civilization that was the dominant cultural force of Central America.
Latin America has influenced the US not only in terms of cuisine and culture but also in geography. 525,000 square miles of Mexican territory were ceded to the United States via the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848, ending the US-Mexican war. This land now comprises the US State territories of present-day California, Nevada, Utah, most of New Mexico and Arizona, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming.
Why is Hispanic Heritage important to teach?
Understanding the history of our country helps us understand our legacy and to be informed citizens of this diverse democracy. Hispanic Heritage Month and its contributions to what the US stands for is a critical component of education and Outschool is committed to elevating and celebrating the rich cultural heritage that it represents by hosting groups like the Hispanic Heritage Club.
If you’d like your learner to become more familiar with Latin culture, classes like Spanish Immersion - Legendary Latinas or Latin Art History would be a great place to start!
If you’d like to learn more, check out the teacher’s resources at the Hispanic Heritage Month website. Whatever the method, we hope that you’ll take an opportunity this month to celebrate the culture, history, and people of Latin America and the wonderful diversity they bring to our lives!