Hispanic Heritage Month — also known as Latinx Heritage Month — is coming up. Here’s everything you need to know about the annual celebration.
The 2020 Census found that there were roughly 62 million Hispanic, Latino and Latinx Americans living in the United States. With people from Latinx nations making up such a large part of the population, it’s no surprise there’s a whole month dedicated to honoring the Latin diaspora.
What is Latinx Heritage Month? How did it start?
Latinx Heritage Month is observed annually in the U.S. from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The yearly celebration honors the histories, cultures and contributions of Americans of Hispanic descent.
What’s the difference between Latinx, Hispanic and Latino?
Hispanic refers to people from Spanish-speaking countries once colonized by Spain (Hispanicized) and Spain itself. This includes Mexico, most of South and Central America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean.
However, it does not refer to all countries once colonized by the Spanish Empire. For example, Filipinos are not considered Hispanic by the U.S. government because the Philippines is not a predominantly Spanish-speaking nation. Brazil is excluded because it was once a Portuguese territory, not a Spanish one.
The term “Hispanic” is often criticized because it defines all colonized peoples’ identities by their colonizers. It ignores the obvious cultural similarities with other Spanish territories and Latin countries born out of Iberian imperialism. Moreover, it erases colonized people’s Indigenous or mixed roots and excludes the many indigenous peoples who will never identify with Spanish culture or speak Spanish but who have lived on so-called Spanish territories far before Spain’s presence.
Latino is shorthand for the Spanish and Portuguese word latinoamericano, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. It broadly unites all countries in Latin America (South America, Central America, Spanish-speaking Caribbean and Mexico), including Brazil, to create a shared cultural identity.
Latinx (and Latine) further expands upon Latino as a gender-neutral version of the term. It is thought to be more inclusive of LGBTQ folks, particularly for nonbinary members of the Latin community. Some members of the community consider the “x” to be “stripping us of our Latinidad,” but others have embraced Latinx as a means of reclaiming their history and culture and rejecting the colonization of their countries.
Whether someone identifies as Hispanic, Latino or Latinx, they can be of any race. The best way to figure out how someone identifies is by politely asking. Most people from Latin America describe themselves as their family’s nationality (Puerto Rican, Bolivian, Mexican, etc.), so these larger categories may not always be a factor.
According to Pew Research, “The use of the terms ‘Hispanic’ and ‘Latino’ to describe Americans of Spanish origin or descent is unique to the U.S., and their meaning continues to change and evolve. Outside of the United States, these terms are not widely used and may also have different meanings.”
How can you celebrate Latinx Heritage Month?
Latinx Heritage Month was first a weeklong celebration created by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 and was later expanded to a month by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Many Latin American countries (Nicaragua, Mexico, Chile, etc.) won their independence around mid-September and October.
As you can see, Hispanics, Latinos and Latinxs have a very rich, complex and sprawling diaspora. To commemorate this time of year, look no further than your favorite social movements, cuisines, sports, books, musicians and films — and you’ll find no shortage of major contributors from Latinx cultures.
More resources for Latinx Heritage Month
To read up more on Latinx stories, creators and brands, check out the following In The Know coverage.
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