Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month
From September 15th through October 15th, we celebrate Hispanic and Latinx Americans’ culture, history, and the past and present contributions they have made to the U.S. Here are a few ways you can teach your students about the impact Hispanic and Latinx Americans have made on U.S. history, the arts, STEM, civil rights, and beyond!
The History of Hispanic Heritage Month
Originally, Hispanic Heritage Month was a week-long observation known as Hispanic Heritage Week, which began in 1968. Twenty years later, President Ronald Reagan extended the celebration to a month-long observance by signing Public Law 100–402 on August 17, 1988. September 15–October 15 was officially declared Hispanic Heritage Month in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush.
While most heritage months typically begin on the first day of the month and end on the last day of the month, Hispanic Heritage Month was split between September and October to coincide with the dates Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Mexico, Chile, and Belize gained their independence. September 15 is Independence Day in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico’s independence from Spain is celebrated on September 16, and Chile’s Independence Day falls on September 18. Belize celebrates its independence from Great Britain on September 21.
Arts & Culture
Through their music, paintings, poems, and everything in-between, Hispanic and Latinx artists have - and continue to - shaped the landscape of American art and culture. Here are just a few of our favorite virtual exhibits and lesson plan ideas to jumpstart the celebration of their incredible works of art!
Self-portrait on the Borderline between Mexico and the United States by Frida Kahlo (1932) – This self-portrait by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo was painted while Kahlo was living in the U.S., and it depicts the artist standing in between her homeland (Mexico) and her new home (the U.S.) Some questions you can ask your students are: What message is Kahlo communicating about her heritage and American culture? What symbols does she use to convey that message? What differences do you spot between the two cultures? After answering these questions, students can draw self-portraits that represent their heritage.
“Music Lessons” by Smithsonian Folkways – Travel to Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Guatemala, Columbia, and Mexico with music that will transport you and your students — no passports required! These lesson plans from Smithsonian Folkways teach students about the history of each country’s music, the instruments played, and the music’s cultural significance. While listening to the music included in the lesson plans, encourage students to clap, tap, and dance along. After all, music moves us!
“Teach this Poem” by Poets.org – Poetry is like music, but instead of instruments, it relies on the rhythm created by words to make sounds. Similarly to music, poetry also uses verses to tell stories. These poems by Hispanic and Latinx American poets share their stories in both English and Spanish. Encourage your students to read the poems out loud and pay attention to the rhythm and flow of the words. Each lesson plan shows the translations side-by-side and includes discussion questions and activities for your students.
Countless advancements in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) have been made possible through the research and work of multiple Hispanic and Latinx Americans. Their experiments have led to ground-breaking medical discoveries, including vaccines and treatments of diseases. Technology, like the first full-field digital mammography imaging system co-developed by NASA astronaut and engineer José Hernández and the invention of the X-ray reflection microscope by Dr. Albert Baez, has enabled doctors to detect diseases sooner.
Below are a few ways your students can learn more about these trailblazers’ accomplishments in botany, physics, chemistry, mathematics, health care, and more.
Biography Presentations – Give your students a list of Hispanic and Latinx American scientists, doctors, engineers, and mathematicians, and let them select someone to do a presentation on. This list from Biotechnology Innovation Organization provides an overview of 25 trailblazers in STEM to choose from.
“American Latino Theme Study: Science” by National Park Service – Dive deeper into the history of Latinx’s contributions to medicine and science. This article also discusses the medical discrimination the Latinx community faced for decades and their activism efforts to improve health conditions and pass anti-discrimination laws.
“Space Place” by NASA – Available in Spanish and English, these games, videos, and activities teach students about the solar system, rovers, and technology.
United Farm Workers and Civil Rights
The National Farm Workers Association (NFWA, which later became United Farm Workers) was founded by César Chávez and Dolores Huerta in 1962. NFWA’s purpose was to unionize farm workers and seek better working conditions and better wages for its members, many of whom were Mexican American.
NFWA took a nonviolent approach to its protests — which included boycotts, marches, and strikes — and joined the cause of other labor unions. On Mexican Independence Day (September 16) in 1965, NFWA joined forces with Filipino American farm workers’ Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) to strike against grape growers. This strike became known as the Delano Grape Strike and lasted five years. During this time, the NFWA and the AWOC merged on August 22, 1966, to create the United Farm Workers (UFW).
Over the following decades, UFW secured labor and civil rights victories for all farm workers. A few of these victories include pay increases, better benefits, and the passage of California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975, which gives farm workers the right to unionize. Today, UFW continues advocating for agriculture workers. For more information and lesson plans about UFW and civil rights, check out these resources:
“‘Sí, se puede!’: Chávez, Huerta, and the UFW” Lesson Plan by EDSITEment!
“The United Farm Workers and the Delano Grape Strike” Primary Sources by Digital Public Library of America
“When Mexicans and Filipinos Joined Together” by Andy Imutan, United Farm Workers
“A Latinx Resource Guide: Civil Rights Cases and Events in the United States” by Library of Congress.
Explore the Gallopade Hispanic Heritage Collection for additional resources celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. For more historical tidbits, lesson plan ideas, and free activities, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, check out our other blogs for even more resources!
 “About National Hispanic Heritage Month,” National Hispanic Heritage Month, https://www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov/about/. Accessed 30 August 2022.
 “Hispanic Heritage Month,” HISTORY, https://www.history.com/topics/hispanic-history/hispanic-heritage-month. Accessed 30 August 2022.
 "’Sí, se puede!’: Chávez, Huerta, and the UFW,” EDSITEment!, https://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plans/si-se-puede-chavez-huerta-and-ufw. Accessed 8 September 2022.
 “The Farmworkers’ Movement,” Equal Justice Initiative, 1 December 2014, https://eji.org/news/history-racial-injustice-farmworkers-movement/. Accessed 13 September 2022.
 Kim, Inga. “UFW Chronology,” United Farm Workers, 3 April 2017, https://ufw.org/ufw-chronology/. Accessed 13 September 2022.
 “A Latinx Resource Guide: Civil Rights Cases and Events in the United States,” Library of Congress, https://guides.loc.gov/latinx-civil-rights/united-farm-workers-union. Accessed 13 September 2022.