Are you looking for a way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month? The literature, art, food and music from over 20 Spanish-speaking countries provide so much inspiration for special events, lesson plans or activities. Even if your family or students are not Hispanic or Latino, this national observance is an opportunity to learn about this rapidly growing population’s traditions, contributions and history.
DYK: According to the US Census Bureau, the Hispanic population in the United States was 62 million in July 2021, making people of Hispanic origin the largest racial or ethnic minority at 18.9% of the total population.
History of Hispanic Heritage Month
Before planning your celebration, let’s take a moment to review the history. Celebrated from September 15 until October 15, this national observance started in 1968 when President Lyndon B. Johnson designated a week to recognize the contributions of Hispanic Americans. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded the weeklong observance to a month. It was subsequently enacted into law on August 17, 1988. The start date of September 15 was significant because it’s also the anniversary of independence for the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile and Belize’s independence days are September 16, 18 and 21. Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, is on October 12. Thus, the national observance in the U.S. extends until October 15.
Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrations at Home, School or Program
Discover the arts, crafts, book recommendations, virtual tours, music and more of Hispanic and Latino cultures. The following list of fun and creative ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month will bring vibrant colors, rich history and tradition to life for all ages at your home, school or program.
- Host a Fabulous Frida Decorating Contest. Featured on U.S. stamps, calendars and postcards, the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait has also landed in schools and programs nationwide. Make it a program or school-wide contest to create Fabulous Frida bulletin boards or classroom doors for Hispanic Heritage Month. Discover decorating ideas on DIY websites such as Pinterest and Spanish Mama. This downloadable resource is available for $4 on the Teachers Pay Teachers website.
- Make the Perfect DIY Piñata! Decorating and filling this paper-mâché figure with fruit, candy or toys is only half the fun. The best part of this festive Latin tradition is breaking it open. Get instructions from the Kids Activities website.
- Read Books Featuring Hispanic and Latino Authors. From picture to poetry, fiction and non-fiction books, celebrate the contributions of Hispanic and Latino authors with a storytime, book club or read-a-thon. Try 11 Picture Books Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month or Books for Hispanic Heritage Month for the little ones. Also, check out 6 powerful books to read during Hispanic Heritage Month for yourself and your kids, 12 Hispanic Authors Who Target Young Adults and Teens or YA Books by Latino Authors for the older ones.
- Make and Shake Mini Maracas. Kids Activities will help you create beautiful music with beans, empty film canisters, craft sticks and colored vinyl tap. Kinder Art offers a recycled version using water bottles. A staple of Latin music, a maraca is a rattle usually made from a gourd used as a percussion instrument. Just grab the handle and shake for sound.
- Savor the Flavors. Host a taste-testing, lunch or dinner featuring the savory flavors of traditional dishes such as flan, pupusas, enchiladas, Arroz con pollo, empanadas and paletas. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with 25 recipes from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Spain and more or 40 Latin-inspired Meals Kids will Love. Let your little chefs help prepare the meals.
- Paint Ponchos. All it takes is paper, paint, glue and yard to recreate this traditional colorful Mexican sleeveless garment. Deep Space Sparkle says it takes about 40 minutes for children to make the famous Mexican poncho, also called a serape or jorongo.
- Take a Virtual Tour of the Molina Family Latino Gallery. Take a trip to the Somos Theater or Learning Lounge with this interactive map. Learn about the features in the Molina Family Latino Gallery and content from the ¡Presente! Exhibit right from your classroom or home.
- Learn Latin American Geography. Young children can color pre-printed maps or flags from Spanish Mama to decorate the classroom. Education.com recommends a map challenge that requires students to research different cities in South America for middle and high-school children.
- Binge-Watch Spanish Movies. Teachers Pay Teachers recommends the Disney Pixar movie Coco for young children. There are also a variety of Spanish-language films featuring Hispanic and Latino entertainers on Netflix and other streaming services.
- Make a Mayan Pyramid. The myths surrounding the Maya ruins at Uxmal (pronounced oosh-mawl) have captured the imagination of both young and old for its mystical murals, carvings and sculptures found in the grand architecture of pyramids. Inspired by Family can help you share the legends of the Mayan people with children two and older.
- Visit the Smithsonian’s Latino Center. In 2020, Congress enacted legislation establishing an American Latino Museum in Washington, D.C. In the meantime, you can visit the Smithsonian’s Latino Center.
- Step to Salsa. Incorporate a math lesson into your Hispanic Heritage Month celebration as children count the six steps to the salsa. Like the mambo, salsa is a Latin dance with over eight music counts. It’s also an opportunity to shake off stress, get exercise and build motor skills. Music is important for school readiness and social and emotional development. Add other dance moves such as the mambo, merengue and cha-cha. Invite a dance instruction to the classroom or visit YouTube for virtual lessons.
- Fall for a Fiesta. Conclude Hispanic Heritage Month with a Fall Fiesta. Use the recommendations above to decorate your home, program or classroom. This celebration is an opportunity to showcase your month-long projects, share your knowledge and display your new dance moves. Also, check out the Fiesta Del Sur at William Beans Community Center or the 14th annual Latino Festival of Frederick.
Check out the MFE events section of the website that features a variety of local Hispanic Heritage Month events and activities. Share your creative ideas, photos and videos of Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @MDEngageEarly using the Hashtag #HispanicHeritageMonth.