Hispanic Heritage; A Celebration of Global Culture in America


“Gateway” to America (Rosalia Torres-Weiner/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution)

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What is National Hispanic Heritage Month?


 In the United States we celebrate Hispanic Heritage month from September 15th -October 15th.  Hispanic people have been a part of the heritage and history of American culture since October 12, 1492.  On this day, three Spanish ships under the navigation of Cristóbal Colón made landfall in the Bahamas. This moment sparked the beginning of more than 500 years of Global culture in America.  Many celebrate this as a great discovery while we also remember that the mixing of Europeans with Indigenous people brought disease, death and slavery to America.  History contains both the good and the bad effects.  Great changes often come at great cost.  The pandemic of European disease devastated many island natives within the first generation of European encounters.  African slaves were taken to replace the demand for labor. It is important to recognize that Hispanic culture is a global culture.  Americans today celebrate the contributions of Hispanic Europeans, Indigenous Natives, Diverse Africans, and Asian cultures mixing on the continent for over 500 years. 

 What is your opinion?  Should the day be called Columbus Day to celebrate European discovery and the beginning of Hispanic American culture, or is it good to call it Indigenous Peoples day to remember that Native American Culture paid a high price for European advancements?  A study of Hispanic heritage will soon show that it is ok to name it with both perspectives because we learn from each cultural point of view.

On October 12, 1492 Columbus first made landfall in the Bahamas

The video above reminds us that no person acts alone.  Cristóbal Colón represents the great mixing of culture as he was an Italian, who studied navigation in Portugal and navigated to America claiming empire for Spain.  His actions sparked a cultural competition for power and influence that had winners and losers.  The power of  We the People in the United States Government began with mostly British landowners.  These settlers pushed the Natives, French and Spanish aside while using African slaves for labor but in the process these cultures all made contributions.  Today we recognize that the strength of We the People comes from our diverse global culture.

A line graph showing that the U.S. Hispanic population reached more than 62 million in 2020

With progress in areas of Civil Rights and continued cultural mixing over time, the voting body of citizens in the United States has grown. Hispanic American citizens make up nearly 20% of the population in the US today. National Hispanic Heritage celebrations were first recognized by President L. B. Johnson in 1968.  In the video below, President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) speaks about the importance of Hispanic Americans in the United States Government. He is recognizing the growing number of Hispanics in the U.S. and the power of their vote as he is also acknowledging the need for dialogue on cultural issues and important shared values.  Hispanic Heritage month was designated by law in 1988 to begin September 15th and end October 15th. These dates are a recognition of the anniversary of Independence for many Latin American nations as well as the anniversary of the arrival of Spanish culture on the continent.

Who is Hispanic?  Link

8 Reasons we celebrate HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH: LINK

Official Hispanic Heritage Month Website : LINK

What does Hispanic culture mean to you?

Basically the word Hispanic is derived from people who are part of America & Hispano Hablante [hispano speaker] .

Hispanics are the people who come from Central America or Latin America. They are the people who have Spanish as their first language. An example is me.  – Bryan

The United States Government defines “Hispanic or latino” a “person of cuban, Mexican,Puerto Rican, South American, Central American, or other Spanish origin or culture, Regardless of race.  – Kevin

It has many different meanings for me, because my name was taken by my grandfather. He wants my name to be Tarek-abn-Ziad who took Spain for 800 years and added many things to the spanish culture, like spanish language or buildings and many different things. – Tariq

Hispanic culture to me is the arts that latinos have created and built over the years, that they later pass on to their children and generations. – Angie

Hispanics are people who speak Spanish and practice culture, mainly people from Central America.  -Jay

Hispanics are people all over the world who have Spanish as their first language,they are people who have latin culture in themselves.- Carlos

Hispanic culture is a combination of European, African, and South American cultures all mixing together to create their own unique culture -Z

Hispanic culture to me is a wide range of ethnicities coming together to celebrate a common lifestyle – Carlos M

Hispanic refers to the people and the culture or countries that are connected to the history and geography of Spain – Omar

Hispanic culture to me means my whole life, my family and myself. Hispanic culture changes in every country. The only thing that stays the same is the language. Hispanic culture has spread around the world. The United States has a large influence by hispanics from around the world; it has a 20 percent hispanic population. -A

Why do we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month?

It’s the month of independence in both Latin American countries .We celebrate the memories of events that have marked our ancestors.  We celebrate what we have done and what we still can do,because we can achieve great things. We celebrate for all those people who have made being Latino proud. – Leo

Beginning on september 15; it is a tribute to the history of the American Spanish language and culture. – Berlyn

 Instead of starting at the beginning of september, hispanic heritage month is celebrated for 30 days starting on the 15th, a nod to the anniversaries of national independence of several latin American countries, a celebration of hispanic people all that began in 1968 after it was promulgated to 30 days as a law on August 17th 1988. -Carlos

We celebrate Hispanic Heritage because in this country all of us; the people are together and share traditions as Americans. Another reason is to never forget where we come from and never forget our traditions. -Bryan

We celebrate the Hispanic heritage because all of us are immigrants in this country and  we  are  looking for a good future and we do not have the opportunity to celebrate freely in our native country but we celebrate it here as Americans. – Miguel

We celebrate Hispanic heritage because 20% of the population is Spanish-speaking. As Hispanics, we contributed a lot to the United States because thanks to Hispanics there are several jobs such as Medicine, Government, Education, Field work, Construction and also we have excelled in various creative branches such as Music, Art, Literature and Acting etc. -Sofia

We celebrate Hispanic Heritage because our ancestors traveled from one continent to another; we still travel today. This mix of culture for 500 years should be celebrated. The percentage of Hispanics in the USA is 20%.  It has increased over the years and we have a strong voice in American life. – Cristina

At Mountain View we celebrate Hispanic Heritage month because every 1 of 3 students are Hispanic. 20% of the U.S. population is hispanic- Jay

We are in a country which respects pluralism. The United State of America shows that respect by giving these days to celebrate in Hispanic days, because Spanish people are a big part of the USA. – Tariq

We celebrate hispanic heritage month to honor the contributions of the Hispanic and Latin American communities.  – Omar

We celebrate the Hispanic heritage because of all the people that are proud latinos. These people never forget where they came from and all the traditions that they have. Hispanic Heritage are all the people who have continued the culture throughout their lifetime. – Bridget

The term “Hispanic”emerged in the 1980s and “was a strategic goal of Hispanic community organizers, who hoped to create a collective identity that people from a group of countries colonized by Spain could use to exert political and economic power…The idea was to leverage this power to address shared concerns, improving the material conditions of communities that shared ancestral geography and, in some instances, the Spanish language. In many ways, the adoption of a broad, Hispanic identity helped organizers achieve these goals. It is undeniable that there is economic benefit and political power in the use of Hispanic.”

However, many Spanish-speaking individuals may not self-identify as Hispanic and might instead emphasize a connection to a particular nation, use Latino/a/x/e, and/or also identify as Indigenous.

“Some arrived in the United States as immigrants or refugees while others trace their ancestry to Spanish-speaking or indigenous peoples living in North America long before the establishment of the United States. Latino/as have established missions and businesses, raised families, built agricultural industries and labor unions, written novels and songs, and fought for civil rights in American courts. The breadth of Latino/a experience is a vital aspect of America’s rich and diverse past. The places explored here barely begin to hint at the varied ways their lives intersected with one another. Discover these remarkable stories preserved in our national parks and historic places.” – From the National Park Service



Select Biographies of Hispanic Americans Today:



Laurie Hernandez

Laurie is an Hispanic-American gymnast, an Olympic gold medalist, and the youngest-ever champion on Dancing with the Stars…I think it’s interesting that she has been nicknamed “the human emoji” for her outgoing facial expressions. I was interested in learning more about her because she is an athlete and I’ve always loved sports. – Josh


Frida Kahlo

shot in studio master (Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museum)

Frida extended the history of Mexico and Mexican culture into her artwork. She lived a very tragic life but tried her best to rise above them. She lived through an accident that handicapped her for the rest of her life, as well as a miscarriage and an unexpeted foot mutiliation. But she rose above all of these experiences. She has become a symbol of resilience, empowerment, and an example of a fierce woman.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda on his Broadway smash Hamilton: 'the world freaked out' | Hamilton | The Guardian

Some may recognize Miranda from his inspiring performance in the Broadway musical Hamilton. 








George Lopez

George Lopez | Biography, TV Shows, & Facts | Britannica

George Edward Lopez is an American actor and comedian of Mexican descent. Lopez was born on April 23, 1961, in Mission Hills, Los Angeles, California. His Mother abandoned him at an early age and he was forced to live with his grandmother. Lopez graduated in 1979, from San Fernando Senior High School, and started getting into comedy. He found humor in his difficult childhood and turned his painful experiences into material for his stand-up comedy where he was able to connect with the Mexican-American community. George Lopez quickly rose to success in the comedy community and began trying out acting with his first appearance being on an American family comedy show named after him “George Lopez” which aired from 2002 to 2007. This exposure to the acting industry opened up more doors for opportunities to better his acting career. Lopez was awarded the ALMA award for special achievement in 2007.  George Lopez is a successful Mexican-American comedian and actor. Lopez is an outstanding role model for the Hispanic community and a staple of Hispanic heritage month. He had a rough childhood but managed to turn his struggles into something positive and made a name for himself. 



 Robert Trujillo

Do you recognize this musician from the famous rock band Metallica?

Metalliica's Rob Trujillo: My Life Story | Louder

 Early life and Career

Robert Trujillo was born in Santa Monica, California in 1964 and comes from a Mexican/Native American origin. He grew up in Culver City, California where his father worked as a teacher at a local high school. When he was 19 he went to jazz school in hope of becoming a studio musician who plays specifically for recording artists. He gained his first amount of popularity when he joined the band “Suicidal Tendencies” as their bassist. He remained in this band for 6 years until the mid 90s when he left to join artist Ozzy Ozbournes band in which he stayed in for 12 years. When Metallica bassist Jason Newstead retired, Metallica hired trujillo to be their new bassist. To this day he is their longest lasting bassist and was inducted into the hall of fame as a Metallica member in 2009. 

Musicianship and Technique

Robert Trujillo has played the bass guitar his entire career and has a very unique technique and playing style. Most guitar players would tell you to keep the body above the waist but Robert Trujillo keeps the body under his waist at his thigh so it’s diagonal on his body. The type of songs Rob plays in metallica is “metal” and is not typically a hispanic music style but Rob shows that anyone from any nationality can play any music they want to.

Music culture

Music is a huge part of Hispanic culture and tradition and it’s always great to see musicians from different cultures and places become popular. While Trujillo might not incorporate the traditions of Mexican music in his playing, it undoubtedly played a part in his inspiration to be a musician. Below is a video of Rob playing “Flamenco” music on an acoustic guitar with his bandmates. Flamenco is a music style invented in southern Spain which is heavily acoustic guitar based and very difficult. The only part of the video below that matters is about the first 20 seconds. 


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Working for Latino Rights in Denver, Colorado

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This work is a recent sample of the representation of cultural mixing through Geography and History
What images of Hispanic culture do you see in this colorful selection on display in the Smithsonian? (Google Arts and Culture)