Hispanic Americans have played an important role in the history of America for hundreds of years. They have shaped the heritage of the United States and influenced its way of life in numerous ways.
Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 each year, is an opportunity to celebrate the history, culture and contributions of the people of Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
Here are some suggestions to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month:
Read a book by a Hispanic author such as Juan Felipe Herrera’s “Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes,” Ray Suarez’ “Latino Americans: The 500-year Legacy That Shaped a Nation” or “My Beloved World” by Sonia Sotomayor.
If you open the pages of the internationally acclaimed novels “Love in the Time of Cholera” or “100 Years of Solitude,” by Gabriel García Márquez, a Colombian author and winner of a 1982 Nobel Prize, you will be immersed in a world of fantasy combined with conventional storytelling that depicts his heritage and the Hispanic experience.
Throw a fiesta. Invite family and friends for an informal gathering that features Latin food, music, traditions, trivia games and dancing. Whip up some margaritas and a taco bar, blast some Cuban rhythms, hang a piñata and dance the night away.
Take time to appreciate Hispanic art. The National Association of Latino Arts and Culture provides information about initiatives or arts programs around the country. But if you would rather do it from the comfort of your home, check out the Smithsonian Institute’s online exhibition, “Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art,” with works created by Puerto Rican, Mexican, Dominican and Cuban artists.
Why not create your own folk art? All you need is a plain terracotta pot and some brightly colored acrylic paints to create a colorful, hand-painted pot in the style of Latin American folk art.
Listen to Hispanic music. You can watch and dance along with Rita Moreno in “West Side Story” or “The King and I”. A native of Puerto Rico, Moreno earned all four American entertainment awards (Academy, Tony, Grammy and Emmy) for her work.
If you couldn’t make it to Broadway to see “Hamilton,” a hip-hop musical based on the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, get the soundtrack. It is now the biggest-selling cast recording in American musical history. Miranda, who plays the lead role, is a Puerto Rican composer, lyricist, singer, actor, playwright and producer. His musical won a record-breaking 16 Tony nominations and took home 11 of them.
There’s also the music of Hispanic musicians and singers like Jennifer Lopez (Puerto Rican), Shakira (Colombian), Ricky Martin (Puerto Rican), Christina Aguilera (whose father is Ecuadorian), Gloria Estefan (Cuban), Carlos Santana (Mexican-American) and Tito Puente (Puerto Rican).
Learn some Spanish phrases. Hello (Hola), Goodbye (Adiós), Please (Por favor), Thank you (Gracias), How are you (Cómo estás), I’m sorry (Lo siento) and You’re welcome (De nada).
Eat Latin food. Mexican restaurants abound in our area, but why not try ceviche from Peru, a dish of raw seafood cured in citrus juices and peppers; a Cuban picadillo, or hash; or a Spanish paella, a flavorful combination of rice, spices, meat and seafood.
Host a movie night. Grab some popcorn (or guacamole and chips) and gather to watch an inspiring Latino movie.
- “McFarland USA”. Poignant story about Latino runners.
- “Underwater Dream”. Inspiring story about an underdog high school robotics team.
- “Stand and Deliver”. A math teacher is a powerful source of inspiration in this fact-based drama.
- “Coco”. In this animated film, aspiring young musician Miguel, confronted with his family's ancestral ban on music, enters the land of the dead to find his great-great-grandfather.
- “Under the Same Moon”. This drama centers on a young boy's journey across the U.S./Mexico border to be reunited with his mother.
Explore the Hispanic world. Take time off during Hispanic Heritage Month and visit some of the most stunning and culturally rich places in the world. The Inca citadel Machu Picchu in Peru, the Mayan ruins in Guatemala, Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, a submarine sinkhole in Belize, or the San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico, the oldest European construction in U.S. territory and one of the oldest in the New World, will surely awaken your senses.
If your budget doesn’t allow for a Hispanic travel adventure, visit a Hispanic heritage site near you or take a virtual trip. Offshore of Assateague Island National Seashore in Virginia, two Spanish shipwrecks rest under the ocean. A testament to the dangers of Colonial-era shipping, artifacts from the La Galga and the Juno shipwrecks are on display in the visitor center.
The National Park Service offers a list of places steeped in American Latino heritage. Visit their website at www.nps.gov.