What You Need To Know About Hispanic Heritage Month

Every year, the month between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15 offers schools, workplaces and cultural institutions the chance to focus on Hispanic people and their culture during Hispanic Heritage Month. The annual event celebrates U.S. citizens from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America with a focus on their cultures and contributions to the nation.

It’s part of the fabric of the United States, a country built by immigrants, to celebrate the differences between the nation’s citizens that, taken together, create a stronger union. That idea is recognized in the theme for the 2022 Hispanic Heritage Month: “Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation.”

Workplaces can play an important role in this effort by scheduling events that recognize and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s also an opportunity for all to learn the history and culture of Hispanic people, as well as their known past and projected future impact on the United States.

Rapid Growth in U.S. Hispanic Population

It’s fair to apply the term “skyrocketing” to the growth in the Hispanic and Latino U.S. population in recent years. The Census Bureau reports that in 2020, 62.1 million people identified as Hispanic and Latinx, a 23% increase from 2010. To put that in context, the population of all other demographic groups grew 4.3% over that same decade.

The Hispanic and Latinx population includes people of any race. Many multicultural people also identify as part Hispanic and Latinx. And the multicultural population is now 33.8 million, a 276% increase from 2010.

These numbers underscore the importance and growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S. The Library of Congress, which offers resources for use during Hispanic Heritage Month, said organizations should take the time during the month to learn Hispanic history and “recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic American champions who have inspired others to achieve success.”

History of Hispanic Heritage Month

The annual event began as Hispanic Heritage Week, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Sept. 17, 1968. His decision to establish the annual event culminated the efforts of U.S. Rep. George Brown (who sponsored the legislation) and 19 co-sponsors. Prominent among those sponsors was Rep. Edward Roybal of California.

Roybal offers an example of a Hispanic American who made a significant impact. Like many Hispanic people from the Southwest, his family history traces back to long before the establishment of the U.S. Roybal came from New Mexico, where his family lived for eight generations. His family moved to East Los Angeles when he was a child.

During his 30-year tenure in Congress, Roybal quietly focused on laws that could benefit the underprivileged, including the sick, elderly, children, non-native English speakers and the non-profit organizations that worked with minority communities. Roybal died in 2005. President Barack Obama awarded him a Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously in 2014.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed into law a bill sponsored by Rep. Esteban Torres of California that expanded the celebration from a week to a month.

How Employers Can Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month In The Workplace

Hispanic Heritage Month offers an opportunity for both Hispanic and non-Hispanic employees to talk about the significant impact that Hispanic culture has in the United States. It also provides the chance to talk about history.

For example, the period between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15 includes many dates that are important in Hispanic culture. Sept. 15 marks the anniversary date of independence for the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, according to the Library of Congress. Both Mexico and Chile celebrate independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18.

Discussion can also take place around prominent Hispanic Americans in the arts, politics and business. There is a very long list to choose from, including these suggestions from Biography:

  • Cesar Chavez, a civil rights activist
  • Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court
  • Roberto Clemente, the first Latin American and Caribbean honoree in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame
  • Rita Moreno, the first Hispanic American woman to win an Academy Award, for portraying Anita in “West Side Story”
  • Current U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
  • Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space
  • Jennifer Lopez, famous singer, dancer and actor
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda, author of the musicals “In the Heights” and “Hamilton”
  • Dolores Huerta, workers’ rights advocate

Organizations can coordinate Hispanic Heritage Month activities around “lunch and learns,” an event that allows employees to listen to lecturers and learn about a topic over a lunch break. Partnering with a Latinx-owned restaurant to host or cater the lunch also adds the element of authentic Hispanic food to the event.

A Latinx-focused Employee Resource Group also can offer ideas for Hispanic Heritage Month. An ERG provides staff members who share similar backgrounds or interests to come together and share experiences, offer each other support and empower their voices within an organization. These groups are entirely voluntary.

If the organization does not yet have a Hispanic ERG, Hispanic Heritage Month is the perfect time to form one. Visit DiversityInc Best Practices to download our full Hispanic Heritage Month Meeting in a Box.

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