Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15, the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countriesóCosta Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico declared its independence on September 16, and Chile on September 18.
The term Hispanic, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, refers to Spanish-speaking people in the United States of any race. Today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 41 million people in the United States are of Hispanic origin. That's about 14 percent of us!
Teaching of the contributions of Hispanic Americans, and learning about the cultures from which they come, will be the focal point of many classroom activities and discussions in the weeks ahead as students across the United States recognize Hispanic Heritage Month -- September 15 to October 15.
But why teach about Hispanic heritage? Or, for that matter, why teach about any heritage? Clearly, teaching about the contributions of Latinos can only help to build
the self-esteem and the pride of those who identify themselves as Mexican-American or Cuban-American or Puerto Ricans and other Latinos in the US today! But, even more importantly, it is essential that we learn to understand the ethnic diversity that is our country.
Many Hispanic Americans trace their roots to the cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Americas -- including the Arawaks (Puerto Rico), the Aztecs (Mexico), the Incas (South America), the Maya (Central America), and the Tainos (in Cuba, Puerto Rico and other places). Some trace their roots to the Spanish explorers -- who in the 1400s set out to find an easier and less costly way to trade with the Indies. Other Latinos trace their roots to the Africans who were brought as slaves to the New World. For purposes of the U.S. Census, Hispanic Americans today are identified according to the parts of the world that they or their ancestors came from, including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spain, or the nations of Central or South America.