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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

¡Salud por la celebración de las culturas hispanas! Siempre debemos celebrar la belleza de las culturas hispanas, pero este mes es un buen mes para empezar.

Cheers to the celebration of Hispanic cultures! It is always important to celebrate the beauty of Hispanic cultures, but this month it is particularly important to commemorate the many contributions of the Hispanic community.

Hispanic Heritage Month is officially celebrated in the U.S. from September 15 to October 15. The observation began in 1968 when President Lyndon Johnson designated the first Hispanic Heritage Week. 20-years later, President Ronald Reagan extended the celebration to a full month and enacted it into law. September 15 represents the anniversary of Independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico celebrates its independence on September 16 and Chile celebrates its independence on September 18.

Background

In 2019, the Pew Research Center found in a survey that 47% of those who qualify as Hispanics by definition, describe themselves using their family’s country of origin. For example, they prefer referring to themselves as Salvadorean, Mexican, Guatemalan, etc. From the same sample, 39% identify themselves using the terms Hispanic or Latino while 14% simply preferred American. The study also found 18% of people who would qualify as Hispanic prefer the term Latinx, 27% prefer Hispanic, and the remaining 54% had no preference between the two. It’s important to recognize that Hispanic and Latinx are not the same terms. Being Hispanic means you identify with or come from a Spanish-speaking country while Latinx means you identify with or come from Latin America. The term Hispanic began circulating from the U.S. Census around the 1970s. For this reason, many people do not want to be called Hispanic. Some believe the term is not inclusive enough, others simply prefer Latinx. This is all based on personal preference of one’s identity, so it’s best to ask someone which one they prefer instead of assuming. It is also important to recognize that the words Hispanic and Latinx are umbrella terms and that every culture under these terms are different and should be recognized.

Ways to Celebrate

Growing up Hispanic, this month was never recognized as an actual holiday within my family. Sometimes the only way I knew it was Hispanic Heritage Month was because I saw a Disney Channel commercial about it. I now recognize the importance of celebrating Hispanic cultures, not only this month, but every day. Below is a list of ways you can celebrate Hispanic cultures year-round:

  • Support local Hispanic businesses by dining at Hispanic restaurants, shopping at local Hispanic markets, etc.
  • Support Hispanic street vendors that may be selling flowers, fruit, etc.
  • If you are a parent, older sibling or around children, educate them about Hispanic cultures by reading books that celebrate Hispanic cultures.
  • Read books written by Hispanic authors.
  • When meeting someone with a name that may be hard to pronounce, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat it to ensure you’re pronouncing it correctly. Try your best to pronounce their name and only use a different name if they tell you to do so. This applies to Hispanics and people from other cultures.
  • Stop wearing costumes that enforce stereotypes.
  • Attend local events that celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
  • Consume media with accurate Hispanic representation.
  • Explore to learn something new! This TedX Talk shares insights on what it means to be Hispanic and Latinx and challenges you to dig deeper into the common stereotypes and assumptions that many of us in this community face.

PR Agencies

As PR professionals and agencies there are specific ways we can support Hispanic communities and cultures year-round:

  • Hire Hispanic PR professionals to ensure there is sufficient representation and perspectives within the agency.
  • Make it a target to use some Hispanic vendors when planning an event, ordering lunch, etc.
  • Assist nonprofits that support Hispanic communities by giving them a discounted rate or doing pro bono work.
  • Ensure campaigns that bring awareness to something that may affect the Hispanic communities include translated materials, ensure there is sufficient media outreach to Spanish publications, and offer Spanish-speaking spokespersons.

Although it might seem impossible to celebrate every culture year-round, simple changes in behavior can make a big difference and can go a long way toward acknowledging and repairing the systemic issues that plague our community. It is imperative that we push ourselves, our clients and our profession to explore how we can do better by recognizing other cultures and informing ourselves.

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