September: National Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month

Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. It was enacted into law on Aug. 17, 1988.

Sept. 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively. Columbus Day, or Día de la Raza, also falls within this 30-day period on Oct. 12.

A number of resources are available online to help your library celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month.

General Information

The Library of Congress, along with the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, offers a site devoted to National Hispanic Heritage Month resources. Offering information on exhibits and collections, images and audio and video, the site looks at such topics as “Exploring the Early Americas,” “Hispanic American Veterans,” “Mesilla, New Mexico: History and Architecture of a Border Town,” and “David Alfaro Siqueiros: Self-Portraits in Art and Writing.”

Examples of Library Programming

The Bronx Library Center kicked off National Hispanic Heritage Month with an afternoon event, “History of the Latino in the Bronx: A Lecture/Discussion by Angel Hernandez of the Bronx Historical Society.” Other programs included an artist's talk by Ruben Natal-San Miguel; screenings of two Spanish films, “Chulas Fronteras” and “Del Mero Corazon”; and a series of workshops on researching your Latino roots with the Hispanic Genealogical Society of New York.

The San Diego Public Library (PDF) participated in the Latino Legacy Project, which worked to recognize Latino veterans of World War II in the Stories of Service initiative.

Milwaukee Public Library (Forest Home Branch) began with a kick-off event featuring Miss Latina Wisconsin 2013 reading the story “El Patito Feo/The Ugly Duckling” in Spanish and English. Children sang songs in Spanish, ate churros and learned about empanadas, then watched a traditional Mexican dance performance.

Harris County (Tex.) Public Library offered a number of programs, including a Peruvian cooking program, Latin dance demonstrations, a Nuestra Palabra presentation on Latino history and literature, a Día de los Muertos Celebration for teens, and an exhibit featuring the art of Papel Picado.

Newark (N.J.) Public Library hosted programs around the theme “Mesoamerican Mosaic,” including the exhibit “Mesoamerican Mosaic: New Jersey’s Guatemalan, Salvadoran and Honduran Communities,” screenings of the PBS documentary “Latino Americans: The Peril and the Promise,” the film “Garifuna in Peril,” and the documentary “Niños de la Memoria.” They also hosted performances of traditional Guatemalan marimba music and folkloric ballet from El Salvador.

The Lee County (Fla.) Library System hosted an information session about naturalization with representatives from the U.S. Office of Citizenship and Immigration.

The Lee County (Fla.) Library System Broward County (Fla.) Public Library took a virtual route with much of their programming. Among their offerings were free downloads of samba, salsa, bolero, and other Latino/Hispanic music and online Spanish cooking classes.

Teaching Resources

Smithsonian Education offers a wide selection of Hispanic Heritage teaching resources, including the Celebrating Hispanic Heritage: People, Places and Events on Stamps online exhibit in English and Spanish, the Música del Pueblo interactive exhibition, ¡Del Corazón! Latino Voices in American Art, and Beyond Baseball: The Life of Roberto Clemente, among others.

The Library of Congress’s lesson plans “[e]xplore the culture, contributions and interactions of Hispanic peoples in North America through rare maps, historical documents from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, local histories, recorded songs, interactive games, and detailed online bibliographies.”

The National Endowment for the Humanities offers archives of National Hispanic Heritage Month resources on its EDSITEment website. The pages provide general information as well as links to featured lessons and Web sites.

Scholastic has a Teacher’s Guide/Research Starter for Celebrating Hispanic Heritage.

Public Libraries of Saginaw (Mich.) provides Hispanic Heritage Month reading lists for children, teens, and adults.

Orange County (Fla.) Library System offers a host of resources (including books, websites, etc.) that can be used in planning Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations. Many of the resources are Florida-centric, but maybe they will spark ideas about your own state!

Other Resources

The following libraries have developed a variety of resource lists for National Hispanic Heritage Month, including reading lists, film lists, and Web links:
County of Los Angeles Public Library
San Antonio Public Library
Angelo State University Library

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