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How to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month if you’re not Hispanic

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!!!

National Hispanic Heritage Month traditionally honors the cultures and contributions of both Hispanic and Latino Americans. Observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon B. Johnson and was then expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15 (I guess Reagan did some things right).

As a Black person, I love celebrating Black History Month, but cringe at how people use it to take advantage of Black consumers. In the spirit of solidarity, I wanted to share some ways you can responsibly celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. As a disclaimer, I am not of Hispanic or Latino heritage; I am simply an ally who wants to make the celebration fun for everyone!

First things first, what is the difference between Hispanic and Latino?

Before we dive into some ways to celebrate, let’s clear up a frequently asked question: what is the difference between Hispanic and Latino?

When we say Hispanic, we are mostly talking about language. People from Hispanic countries speak Spanish as their primary language. 

When we say Latino, we are talking about geography or where a person has ancestry from. Someone who is Latino is from (or has ancestry from) Latin American countries, including some Caribbean countries and South America.

A confusing example is Brazil: While Brazilians are Latino, they are not Hispanic because they do not primarily speak Spanish.

Here is an excerpt from a nifty comic:

Without going too deep into vocabulary, you can check out these articles on terms like Latino, Latin@, Latinx, and Latine! And of course, we can’t forget about Afro-Latine folks!

Read books by Hispanic/Latine authors

I’m of course gonna talk about what books we should be reading during this month! I’m definitely no expert, but some of my favorite authors are Silvia Moreno-Garcia (call me basic, but I freaking loved Mexican Gothic, also, she’s Canadian, but that’s beside the point 😅), and Elizabeth Acevedo (I would read, and I have read, all of her books!).

But there are also some amazing books I really enjoyed reading. For YA I liked I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter and Furia. For adult fiction, some of my favorites are You Had Me at Hola, Fruit of the Drunken Tree, and What’s Mine and Yours.

Support Hispanic/Latine businesses

Instead of giving your money to Moe’s or Chipotle, find some authentic restaurants to support. I love sweets, so I’m all about going to my local Mexican bakery and getting one of their Tres Leches cakes! Make sure you are supporting businesses both owned and operated by Hispanic/Latine people and not folks who are appropriating the culture for profit. The best place to find them is at local markets, “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants, and in the ~~cultural~~ parts of your city or town.

And I love me some Goya, but buy at your own discretion. Also, there is absolutely no reason you should have to wear a sombrero while eating a taco…(Editor’s Note: There is never a reason to wear a sombrero unironically, this has been a PSA from your resident Latinx Lady)

Advocate for policies that support and uplift Hispanic/Latine Americans

We all know that attacks against DACA and other immigration policies are directly related to anti-Latine racism (even though Hispanic/Latine people are not the only ones who immigrate to the US). ICE enforcement and their strong ties with local law enforcement is also directly related to anti-Latine racism. And understand that Hispanic/Latine Americans are not a monolith politically or culturally, they’re people and thus policies that lift all marginalized communities left them up as well. It’s not just immigration my dudes!

We need to reach out to our local politicians asking them to support stronger immigration and asylum support and educate ourselves on how these policies affect Hispanic/Latine people. We also should be calling out anti-Latine racism when we see it, including Afro-Latine erasure.

Celebrate the contributions

Bottom line is to just celebrate the contributions of Hispanic/Latine people, not only how their culture has enriched American culture, but just the resilience and richness of their own culture despite colonialism. We shouldn’t wait until September-October to do any of these things; we should be doing them all year long. Also, we have got to broaden our cultural definition. Mexican is not the only Latine culture. (nor is the label interchangeable!)

I will be reading Velvet was the Night and dancing to all the J Balvin, Kali Uchis, and Paloma Mami (so no different than the rest of the year).

How will you be celebrating?

Tayler Simon is a nerdy black woman in search of liberation for all. When she's not reading/listening to audiobooks and writing, you can find her laughing at memes and chatting incessantly about astrology (Cancer/Sagittarius/Cancer). Favorite genres: African American fiction and memoir.


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