Hispanic Heritage Month is a month-long celebration of Hispanic and Latino history and culture. While we celebrate Hispanic and Latino communites beyond this month, from September 15 to October 15 we give extra recognition to the many contributions made to the history and culture of the United States, including important advocacy work, vibrant art, popular and traditional foods, and much more.
Hispanic Heritage Month provides an additional opportunity to explore the incredible impact Latinas and Latinos have had on the United States for generations. The Latino presence in America spans centuries, predating Spain’s colonization of what is now part of the United States, and they have been an integral part of shaping our nation since the Revolutionary War. Through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Treaty of Paris that followed the Mexican-American and Spanish-American wars, the United States gained territories in the Southwest and Puerto Rico. This incorporated the people of this area into the United States and further expanded the presence of Hispanic Americans.
Today, the Latino population in the United States today is over 60 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This makes up 18.9% of the total population and is the largest racial or ethnic group. Latinos continue to help fuel our economy and enrich our nation as entrepreneurs, athletes, artists, entertainers, scientists, public servants, and much more.
What is the difference between Hispanic and Latino?
Hispanic and Latino are the two most used terms to describe Americans with Latin American and Caribbean ancestry. You may often see these terms used interchangeably, but different people understand and use these terms differently. The National Museum of the American Latino uses the term “Latino” to describe the diverse residents of the United States with cultural or ancestral ties to Latin America or the Caribbean. For many, the term "Latino" also creates room for acknowledging Black, Indigenous, Asian, and other heritages on equal terms with European ancestry. The term “Hispanic” is used to signal a connection to Spain or the Spanish language.
When is Hispanic Heritage Month?
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated each year from September 15 to October 15. It began as a week-long celebration in 1968 under President Johnson and was expanded to a month by President Reagan 20 years later in 1988. The month-long celebration provides more time to properly recognize the significant contributions Hispanic/Latino Americans have made in the United States.
Hispanic Heritage Month does not cover one single month but instead begins in the middle of September and ends in the middle of October. The timeframe of this month is significant because many Central American countries celebrate their independence days within these dates, beginning on September 15 with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. By aligning with these independence dates, Hispanic Heritage Month honors the resilience and determination of the Hispanic community. Key Independence Days celebrated within Hispanic Heritage Month include:
- September 15 - Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua
- September 16 – Mexico
- September 18 – Chile
- September 21 - Belize
Learn more about the unique Latin Independence Days traditions and celebrations.
Why is Hispanic Heritage Month so Important?
Latinas and Latinos have always held significant roles throughout our country’s history, dating all the way back to the American Revolution. Hispanic Heritage Month is important because it provides an opportunity to celebrate the integral part the Hispanic/Latino community has had in growing and strengthening our democracy.
Representation matters. Latinos and Latinas continue to shape our nation as business owners, activists, artists, public servants, and more. From serving in the U.S. military to being champions in the fight for civil rights, Latinas and Latinos remain strong leaders and changemakers.
It’s crucial to make sure that the contributions of the Latino community are showcased, and that Latinas and Latinos have a voice. According to 2020 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, one in every four children in the United States is Hispanic/Latino. A recent study found that Latino history is largely left out in high school textbooks that are used across the United States, despite the increasing percentage of Latina and Latino students. This also comes at a time when the economic output of American Latinos would rank fifth in the world if the community were an independent country. As the country continues to increase in diversity, it’s necessary for all citizens to learn more about American Latino experiences to recognize and value the many contributions Latinas and Latinos have made.
Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the unique voices and experiences of Hispanic/Latino Americans and recognize their history, journeys, and achievements. Through these celebrations, we can all help to inspire younger generations and bring communities together.
Learn more about why and how we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
Hispanic Heritage Month also provides opportunities to showcase the cultural influences the Latino community has had on the United States. From entertainment and sports to business and science, Latinas and Latinos enrich our society.
As athletes, Latinas and Latinos have been game changers. For example, over the years, the Latino community has helped to shape America’s favorite pastime—baseball. As of opening day in 2023, about 30 percent of Major League Baseball players are Hispanic/Latino. With the accomplishments of past players like Roberto Clemente and present ones such as Francisco Lindor and Javier Báez leading the way, the sport will continue to evolve.
Latinas have also shaped baseball history, serving as players, broadcasters, and team owners. In the 1990s, Linda Alvarado purchased the Colorado Rockies and made history as the first woman to ever win a bid to buy a team. This purchase also resulted in her becoming the first Hispanic MLB team owner. The contributions of Latinas like Alvarado and others, such as baseball player Margaret "Marge" Villa and sportscaster Jessica Mendoza, have forever transformed the game of baseball.
Explore our online resources to learn more about American Latino experiences and how you can join the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration:
- Latino Culture: Learn about the diverse Latino culture and how it has contributed to the society and culture of the United States.
- Latin Independence Days: Learn about the different Independence Days across Latin America and how they are celebrated and honored each year.
- Latin Food: Explore Latino recipes and learn about special events that Latino dishes are a central part of.
- Famous Latinos: Learn about famous Latinos and Latinas who have helped to shape the history and culture of the United States.
- Latino Art: Discover Latino artists who have used their unique experiences to help shape American culture through creative forms.
- Hispanic Heritage Month Educational Resources: Find all the Hispanic Heritage Month resources you need to teach yourself and others about Hispanic heritage and culture.
How can I celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?
During Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrate by taking the time to learn more about Latino identity and historical legacies that enrich communities and continue to shape our nation.
Celebrate the Work of Key Figures in Latino History
Hispanic Heritage Month offers an opportunity to learn about and celebrate the diversity and resilience of American Latinas and Latinos. Throughout our country’s history, the Latino community has been groundbreaking in shaping U.S. culture and democracy.
Latinas and Latinos have been transforming their communities as activists, writers, scientists, entertainers, athletes, military veterans, entrepreneurs, and more. Key figures in Latino history include:
Cesar Chavez – A civil rights activist who was a leader in the fight to improve working and living conditions of farm workers in the United States. Chavez co founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962 alongside Dolores Huerta, which later merged with other unions to become the United Farm Workers of America.
Dr. Ellen Ochoa – Dr. Ochoa became the first Latina to go to space in 1993 as she flew aboard the space shuttle Discovery. She later became the Johnson Space Center’s first Latina director, and her journey continues to inspire many others.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor - Born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, Sotomayor earned degrees from Princeton University and Yale Law School through her determination and discipline. Sotomayor went on to continue demonstrating resiliency and broke boundaries in 2009 as she became the first Latina and third woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.
Lin-Manuel Miranda – As the creator and original star of Broadway’s Tony-winning musicals Hamilton and In the Heights, Miranda is a groundbreaking composer, playwright, and actor. The Pulitzer Prize, Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award-winning entertainer continues to be active in his support to increase the representation of people of color.
Carolina Herrera – Inspired by European travels and attendance at fashion shows, Herrera launched a clothing brand in New York in 1981. The fashion designer’s brand continues to be a staple in American culture, known for timeless, stylish pieces.
Sandra Cisneros - A National Medal of the Arts recipient, Cisneros is a leading Latina voice in literature. She is also a pioneer in the industry, in 1995 she became the first Latina to be named a MacArthur Fellow.
Oscar de la Renta - Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Oscar de la Renta went from being a young immigrant to a globally-renowned fashion icon and innovator. De la Renta began his career at a young age, while studying painting in Spain, where he would sketch dresses for extra money in his free time. This work was the beginning of a long, groundbreaking career in fashion which would see de la Renta become the first Dominican to design for a French couture house, have his designs worn by movie stars and first ladies, and launch a clothing brand that would become synonymous with elegance, innovation, and luxury.
Learn more about the American Latinas and Latinos who have helped shape our nation.
Along with the innovative pioneers, activists, entrepreneurs, and more listed above, Latino artists have also had a profound impact on our nation’s culture through creative forms like painting, sculpting, acting, and music. As you celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, learn more about the creativity and incredible works of Latino artists, such as:
Selena – Also known as the “Queen of Tejano,” Selena became the first Tejano artist to win a Grammy. Despite her untimely end, Selena was instrumental in opening doors for future generations of Latino musicians and her legacy continues to inspire generations of musicians and fans.
Gina Rodriguez - A Golden Globe winner, Rodriguez continues to be a strong voice for the Latino community through her work and philanthropic efforts.
Ana Mendieta - Mendieta is a Cuban American performance artist who created a range of innovative works that were often inspired by her experience of exile and displacement. Through photography, film, drawing, performance art, and more, Mendieta’s work was transformational and captivated audiences.
Willie Colón – Often recognized for his skilled trombone playing, Colón is a pioneer of the American Salsa music style. The talented musician is a composer, arranger, singer, and much more. He draws from many different cultures and styles to create his signature sound.
Judith "Judy" Baca – Baca uses her art as a tool to empower communities. Through murals, monuments, paintings, sculptures, and more, she tells the stories of people who have often been excluded from the retellings of U.S. history.
Helen Rodríguez-Trías - Advocate Rodriguez-Trías fought for women and children to have increased access to healthcare and for the abolishment of forced sterilization. Through her career she broke many boundaries, and served as the American Public Health Association’s first Latina president.
Celia Cruz - Referred to as the “Queen of Salsa,” Cruz was an instrumental part in growing the popularity of salsa music, and her wide fan base helped to shine a spotlight on Latino music in the United States. Throughout her career, Cruz received many honors, including the President's National Medal of Arts. At the 2016 Grammys, Cruz was given a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award.
Learn more about the influential works from Latina and Latino artists.
Food & Recipes
Latino food has had a strong presence and influence in the United States throughout our country’s history. From special events like Día de Muertos/Day of the Dead to quinceañera celebrations, Latino food traditions have long inspired American cuisine. With a rich blend of core ingredients like corn, meat, beans, and rice, the diverse flavors of traditional Latino food continue to be popular across the world. These traditional foods include:
- Tequeños – These Venezuelan fried cheese sticks make tasty appetizers or snacks.
- Suspiro a la limeña – This caramel meringue pudding is a popular Peruvian dessert.
- Hallaca – A popular holiday dish that consists of cornmeal dough stuffed with stewed meat and other ingredients, such as olives, raisins, and capers.
- Arroz con pollo – This dish consists of variations that include seasoned chicken and rice.
- Empanadas - These pastries can be stuffed with a variety of ingredients, including beef, chicken, cheese, and vegetables.
- Pozole - Made from hominy with meat and seasonings, Pozole is a traditional Mexican stew.
- Tostones - Tostones are sliced, unripe plantains that have been fried.
- Milanesa - A thin meat cutlet that is breaded and fried.
- Brigadeiros - This traditional Brazilian dessert consists of sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, chocolate, and butter.
- Dulce de leche - Popular in desserts, dulce de leche is a caramel-like sauce made from milk and sugar.
- Pabellón criollo – Recognized as the national dish of Venezuela, pabellón criollo is traditionally made with shredded beef, rice, beans, and “tajadas” – fried plantains.
As you celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, try cooking some traditional dishes to learn more about Hispanic cuisine and culture. Invite family and friends to join you as you explore the diverse flavors of Latino food with these recipes:
- Salvadoran Pupusas - This traditional dish is made of thick corn tortillas and stuffed with savory foods like cheese, pork, and beans.
- Venezuelan Arepas - Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with a staple in Venezuelan cuisine. Arepas are grilled corn cakes that are often stuffed with different fillings, such as cheese, meat, eggs, or beans. This versatile food is a great dish for any meal.
- Argentinean Chimichurri - Add some authentic chimichurri to your next meal! Traditionally used on grilled meat, chimichurri is a versatile sauce consisting of ingredients like parsley, oregano, garlic, vinegar, and red pepper flakes.
If you’d like to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month without the work of cooking, consider dining out. The growth of Latino culinary options in the United States has helped to increase the popularity of Latino cuisine.
Learn more about the influence of Latino food in the United States.
Events & Celebrations
Join in on the celebration during Hispanic Heritage Month and learn more about the history, culture, and achievements of the Hispanic/Latino community. During this time, many museums and cultural institutions host special exhibitions and programs you can attend to learn more about the American Latino experience. Many of these can also be viewed virtually. You should also check out events happening in your local city. During Hispanic Heritage Month, many cities will host concerts, parades, runs, festivals, art exhibits, and more in celebration.
You can also celebrate by watching awards shows that honor the many accomplishments of Latinas and Latinos and their contributions to our nation’s history.
There are many ways you can show your support for the Latino community. For example, you can research influential Latino leaders, read books written by Latino authors, cook traditional Latino recipes, watch films that feature Hispanic/latino actors and directors, participate in a community service project that benefits the Latino community, learn traditional Latin American dances, and more.
Celebrations do not need to be limited to Hispanic Heritage Month. Throughout the year, there are many resources and events that can help you to learn more about the Latino community. Explore activities in your state to discover events and programs like art exhibits, workshops, lectures, performances, food festivals, film festivals, and parades to show your support.
See the upcoming events and exhibitions at the National Museum of the American Latino.
Hispanic Heritage Month is an excellent time to learn more about the history and contributions of the Latino community. There are many teaching and learning resources that can be used to celebrate and explore during Hispanic Heritage Month, including:
- National Museum of the American Latino’s Teaching and Learning Resources - View the National Museum of the American Latino’s educational resources.
- National Museum of the American Latino’s Family and Public Programs - Discover programs and events you can learn more about to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
- ¡Presente! A Latino History of the United States - Explore the historical legacies, immigration stories, identity, and cultural influences of the Latino community in this online exhibit.
- Smithsonian Institution Hispanic Heritage Month Events and Resources – Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with the Smithsonian Institution! Learn about related events, resources, exhibitions, and podcasts.
- American Women’s History Museum’s Featured Latinas – Learn about some of the remarkable Latinas who have helped shape our nation.
- ¡Pleibol! In the Barrios and the Big Leagues - Examine how the talent and experiences of Latinas and Latinos in the game of baseball have helped to shape the sport.
- The National Postal Museum’s Virtual Exhibit on Celebrating Hispanic Heritage - Learn about some of the contributions of Hispanic people, places, and events as they have been commemorated through the American postage stamp.
- National Hispanic Heritage Month Website - Explore Hispanic Heritage Month resources and events from the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
- Library of Congress's Hispanic Reading Room - Learn about this resource for researching the geographical areas of the Caribbean, Latin America, Spain, and Portugal.