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Hispanic Heritage Month

Mural of Frida Kahlo in Los Angeles
Mural of Frida Kahlo in Los Angeles. Photo by Joshua Coleman on Unsplash

Beginning on September 15 and ending on October 15, National Hispanic Heritage Month is an annual celebration in the United States of both Hispanic and Latin American history, culture, and contributions. What started as a week long event in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week, the observance was expanded to a full month in 1988.

Hispanic and Latin American cultures have been ingrained in the United States long before the observance of Hispanic Heritage Week. The influence of many iconic artists including Frida Kahlo, Victoria Santa Cruz, and Rafael Tufiño have inspired people from their home country, throughout the US, and into the rest of the world. Civil rights activists like Gloria Anzaldúa, Cesar Chavez, and Sylvia Mendez fought for equality that positively impacted the rights of Hispanic and Latino American citizens as well as other diverse communities. Creators like Guillermo González Camarena whose invention introduced color TV to the world, Domingo Liotta who developed the first artificial heart, or Victor Ochoa who invented electric brakes for streetcars have completely impacted the way we live life.

When honoring the achievements of Hispanic and Latino Americans it's important to learn about and respect the distinctions between the two. Hispanic individuals are those that have descended from Spanish speaking populations (i.e. Spain) while Latino/a signifies people who descend from Latin American countries. The identity of the person being referred to is tied to a distinct history and culture so understanding the distinction is vital.

Did you know that not everyone sees the world with 7 continents? Even though with the 7 continent map North Americans refer to Latin America as all of South America in addition to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, other countries are taught that there are 6 continents: which means America is one continent that includes not only North America but South America and everywhere in between.

A Latin American creation close to our heart is, you guessed it, tequila. Tequila has a history that stems back to the 1600s and then went on to be commercially produced in the mid-1700s. It's one of the most authentic drinks from Mexico as the spirit can only be considered tequila if it's produced inside the Mexican state of Jalisco and in certain municipalities in Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.

Whether you're getting ready by using a beauty blender (invented by Mexican and Portuguese-American makeup artist Rea Ann Silva), passing the CAPTCHA to make an online purchase (created partly by Guatemalan professor Luis Von Ahn) or drinking a delicious tequila cocktail from the agave in Tequila, Mexico we can appreciate Hispanic and Latin American culture every day of Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond.

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