Hispanic Heritage Month
By Natalie Schaefer and Sarah Hurd
When I was a little girl, my grandmother made it her mission to find me any and every doll she could find who looked like me. She bought me every Barbie she could find with brown hair. I knew she was looking for dolls who had brown hair like me, but I did not come to realize that my brown hair and brown eyes signified anything more than the fact that everyone on my mom’s side of the family also had the same. My grandparents spoke both Spanish and English. Growing up, I knew they spoke Spanish because I knew when I could not understand what they were saying and typically, if they were speaking Spanish around me, it meant they had a secret -- a birthday present or information only the adults could know. In my family, Spanish names for certain things replaced their English words in such a way that I literally had no idea that there were different words for those things. As an adult, I was eating a salad with pine nuts on it and commented to my grandmother just how much like piñones these curious nuts tasted. My grandmother actually laughed at me when she had to explain that piñon is just the Spanish name for the same nut. I didn’t know, as a kid, that my family was any different from any other family in my neighborhood. I thought everyone’s grandfather carried a packet of chili pequin in their pocket and that mi hita was his nickname only for me. I didn’t identify myself as Hispanic until I had to fill out my first formal documents as a young adult -- you know the ones where they ask you to choose, “White - not Hispanic, or Hispanic” and at that moment I realized the complexity of the ideas we have come to know as identity especially when identity meets other terms like government, hierarchy, and discrimination.
This month, we honor Hispanic Heritage Month. The month actually lasts from September 15th to October 15th. The national holiday started as a week-long celebration in 1968 and was extended to the full month 20 years later, under the Reagan administration. The month begins on the 15th of September in recognition of the date of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Additionally, it aligns with Mexican Independence Day on September 16th and Chile’s Independence Day which takes place on September 18th. The month is meant to recognize the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans and their role in the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. While the holiday is marked as Hispanic heritage, it is important to remember that the term Hispanic itself is complex and may not fully represent the spectrum of individuals and their personal identities and experiences. There is not, as Stef Bernal-Martinez explains, a single Hispanic identity.
According to the 2020 Census, the Hispanic population (including those who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, Central America, and the Spanish speaking nations of the Caribbean) is one of the largest growing portions of the American population today. There are currently approximately 62.1 million people in the United States who fit that category. Colorado is one of 12 states in the country where Hispanic residents number over 1 million. The number is actually 1.25 million, and of that 1.25 million, 26,000 residents are under the age of 18 in Jefferson County.
This month, we take the time to honor Hispanic Heritage Month not only because it is deemed a national holiday, but also because we want all students in Jefferson County Public Schools to feel supported and seen in our schools. In partnership with our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion team, our curriculum team works to provide resources that highlight stories of people from a variety of backgrounds. We want students to feel represented in our curriculum and provide opportunities for students to learn about people of identities that do not reflect their own. We also strive to ensure that students do not only hear stories of people like them in hardship, but also in triumph.
Andone, Dakin. “Why Hispanic Heritage Month Starts in the Middle of September.” CNN, Cable News Network, 15 Sept. 2021, www.cnn.com/2021/09/15/us/hispanic-heritage-month-why-celebrate-2021/index.html.
Bernal-Martinez, Stef. “Unmaking ‘Hispanic’: Teaching the Creation of Hispanic Identity.” Learning for Justice, 1 Oct. 2018, www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/unmaking-hispanic-teaching-the-creation-of-hispanic-identity.
Colorado State Demography Office. “Race and Hispanic Origin.” Colorado Demography, 2021, demography.dola.colorado.gov/population/race-hispanic-origin/#race-and-hispanic-origin.
U.S. Census Bureau. “Hispanic Heritage Month 2020.” The United States Census Bureau, 22 Sept. 2020, www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2020/hispanic-heritage-month.html.
U.S. Census Bureau. “Improved Race and Ethnicity Measures Reveal U.s. Population Is Much More Multiracial.” The United States Census Bureau, 8 Sept. 2021, www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/08/improved-race-ethnicity-measures-reveal-united-states-population-much-more-multiracial.html.
Resources for teachers:
Curriculum & Instruction