Did you know that from September 15th to October 16th, American citizens celebrate Hispanic and Latinx culture for 30 days? Si, it is true, because in 1968, President Lyndon Johnson decided to honor the accomplishments, culture, and history of the hispanic/latinx community, which was later expanded by Ronald Reagan. The month-long observance became into law on August 17th, 1988, and was dubbed National Hispanic Heritage Month.
This month brings about a plethora of mixed feelings and opinions due to the violent and traumatic history that ultimately brought about the birth of Latinx's, which include individuals from all races. Many get confused with the terms "hispanic" and "latinx," but it's fairly simple. Hispanic refers to Spanish speakers, and Latinx refers to the geography they're from. The Spanish colonized Latin America and forced the natives and African slaves to speak Spanish, however, people from Spain are not Latinx; they are only Hispanic, whereas everyone that was born from the mix of Spanish colonization with the indigenous natives and African slaves, are called Latinx's.
Regardless of the many literal and metaphorical battles our ancestors had to fought, they overcame, and this month we pay tribute to them, the beauty of our motherlands, the strength of our people, and the diversity of our culture.
Here are some ways the world can join in the celebration!
1. Supporting a Latinx-owned business.
Cultural appropriation has become more visible with the internet, and it is important to always credit the individuals that were a part of creating a product, whether it is the new best thing or 500 years old. There are many Latinx owned clothing boutiques where you can get the real deal in fashion, jewelry, shoes, makeup, and other accessories. I usually use ShopLatinx to search for what I need, whether it's clothing or hair products (ahem, Rizos Curls). Las Ofrendas in ATX is another fave!
2. Visiting Latinx museums and exhibitions.
Most museums hold Latinx exhibits during this month and through October to honor the revered holiday by many when loved ones that passed away from the Latinx community are honored—Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), as well as spotlight Latinx artists such as our beloved Frida, Jean-Michel Basquiat, or José Celemente Orozco. If you're in Austin, the Mexic-Arte Museum is hosting a Day of the Dead exhibit that's a must-see, and they are also taking donations for the victims of the earthquake in Mexico.
3. Volunteer and/or donate to a local Latinx organization/fund.
Let's put our money where our mouth is! Retweets and meme posting can only get us so far, therefore donating whatever we can to a local Latinx organization will create change that we are always so vocal about. Mama Sana Vibrant Woman is a local organization that provides Latinx and Black women in Austin with pregnancy and birth support to decrease the devastating numbers of maternal and infant mortality rates that are affecting our community. Any donation can aid in continuing their inspiring work.
4. Research and become aware of the political climate that affects the Latinx community.
Many will argue that America's political structure has been a disservice to minority communities, however with hard work, and determination, many have climbed the discriminating ladder to success and to give hope to the younger Latinx generations. One current political issue in the community (and many others) is the future of DACA. This program was birthed by Obama in 2012, and gave immigrant's, who came as children to the states, deferred action and the permission to work in the states. Write to your local representatives and demand for Dreamer's to be protected from deportation with a legislative fix.
5. Explore the diversity of Latinx identities (afrolatinx, afro-mestizo, mulatto, mestizo, indigenous, asian, arab, white, etc).
Believe it or not, not every Latinx/Hispanic is Mexican. Mind blown, I know! There are over 30 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Mexico is just ONE of them. Besides the different nationalities, Latinx's are the world's most diverse group, because it includes people from ALL races and ethnic backgrounds—white, black, asian, arab, etc. We have it all (mainly due to European colonization), for example, Zoe Saldana, Laz Alonso, Gina Torres, Lauren Vélez, LaLa Anthony, and the list goes on! Now it makes sense why that black or asian person you met spoke Spanish, and said he or she is Latinx.
6. Be adventurous and try a new Latinx restaurant that isn't Mexican (even though Mexican food is to die for as well!).
Living in Texas, Mexican food is bound to be on every corner, but as mentioned before, there are over 30 Latinx countries. Austin has an eclectic scene that is attracting Latinx's from every country to open up a food joint, and I support! The next time you head downtown for a night out, stop by at The Doughminican and let your taste buds try the best empanadas they've ever had. This local, Dominican, family-owned spot keeps it authentic as can be, with a slight dash of Texas for ya'.
7. Read books written by Hispanic/Latinx authors.
What better way to get a glimpse into the unique experiences of members in our community than to dive yourself into a good book written by a Latinx? Junot Díaz, Elizabeth Acevedo, & Sandra Cisneros are my current obsessions, but this reading list will change your life.
8. Watch Hispanic/Latinx film.
Some theaters host Hispanic film festivals during this month, but if your local theater isn't doing that, you can get in touch with your local museum for a schedule on their screenings. Latina Magazine compiled a wonderful list of must-see Netflix films that fit in the celebration for Hispanic Heritage Month, however, my personal favorite will forever be Selena.
9. Listen to Latin music.
Latin music has to be my favorite about Latinx culture, after food. It encompasses styles from all over the world—Africa, the Middle East, Asia—into one beautiful, syncretic rhythm. The genres range from bachata to salsa to tango, and whenever it's time to dance, prepare for the work out! Join the salsa party every third Thursday of the month at The Rose Room, where Latin Flair is hosted, and people from all levels participate in.
10. Get out of your comfort zone and take a Latin dance class!
If you require a more intimate, one-on-one session, take a dance class. It'll help you gain rhythm and flair, all the while getting a workout in. Trust me, that shoulder-hip-leg work is intense.
These are just a few ideas of how we can unite and celebrate one another, while learning about our uniques walks of life.
How will you be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month?
Share your plans with us below, or on Facebook!