Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Couple with a baby sitting in the grass
Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

By Megan McQueen

Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15) gives us all an opportunity to celebrate, learn about, and advocate for Latinx and Hispanic folks. The terms Latinx and Hispanic are not interchangeable. Enter conversations with your family, friends, and co-workers with curiosity about their experiences. The range of races, languages, food, and lifestyles included in these groups is vast. 

I look forward to building my appreciation for the rich cultures represented this month with these suggestions:

Learn about Hispanic and Latinx People Start with your child’s interest in highlighting people they may be enthusiastic about. Your art-loving child may be fascinated with Frida Kahlo and Eduardo Kobra. Your sports fan may love to learn more about Evan Longoria (baseball) and Melissa Ortiz (soccer). Dolores Huerta continues to have an impact on civil rights and farmworkers’ rights. Ellen Ochoa is the first Hispanic American to go to space. Watch movies such as Coco (PG), Vivo (PG), and In the Heights (PG-13) together to build an appreciation of Hispanic cultures. Play Cuban dominoes on your next game night.

Learn Spanish Together Spend time together learning how to communicate with your Spanish-speaking relatives and friends. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the United States and has some of the most Spanish speakers in the world. If your child’s heritage includes Spanish speakers (or another language of Latinx families – there are many indigenous languages spoken in Mexico, for example), learning the language can be an opportunity to instill pride in themselves. If your child’s heritage includes English speakers, learning another language may build empathy for their multi-lingual peers and increase the number of people with which they can communicate.

Support Hispanic and Latinx Owned Businesses and Causes Do a quick internet search to find local Hispanic and Latinx-owned businesses. When choosing where to get tacos for dinner, consider supporting the Latinx-owned taqueria to enjoy authentic recipes as well as offering financial backing to your local Hispanic community. You may also want to try some new-to-you foods like El Salvadorian pupusas or Venezuelan arepas. Research ways you can support your local community. Do you have time to mentor youth? Are your kids involved in sports or scouts? How can you ensure that Latinx families feel welcome there? Intentionally diversify your social groups – not to tokenize people, but to grow your community beautifully. 

Talk about Race and Racism Talking with our children about cultural and racial differences can help them become advocates for themselves and others. Use books and movies to spark conversations, as Allison Briscoe-Smith suggests with an example of Zootopia, and Jeremy Adam Smith provides a framework for with read-alouds. You can even watch some Sesame Street clips with your family to give you support in answering your child’s questions and building their anti-racism beliefs.

Attend a Celebration As of the time of this writing, some in-person festivals are happening around the state. Keep an eye on the calendar (and COVID rates) and consider joining in the celebrations. The Portland area has events throughout the year your family may enjoy. Newburg’s Chehalem Cultural Center is planning exhibitions and concerts. Schedules in Salem include poetry, art events, and more in mid-September. Search your town’s planned events or participate in virtual events.

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Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, imparting a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and pup. 

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