Hispanic Heritage Month finds its origins in 1968, when President Lyndon B. Johnson first approved Hispanic Heritage Week. But years later, President Reagan expanded this observance to an entire 30 days. As a result, this Saturday, September 15th, the United States will start celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. This is a time when our nation recognizes the valuable contributions of Hispanic Americans to our country’s history, while exploring the cultures of our Latin American neighbors.
For most Latino families, celebrating culture is not particularly difficult. It frequently permeates our lifestyle embedding itself in our psyche. But this is the perfect opportunity to delve more deeply into the history of our ancestors and help create an intimate knowledge of the role that Latinos have played in U.S. history, as well as the affect they’ve had on our culture.
In a study conducted by the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, researchers found that Latino adolescents who grow up informed and proud of their own culture are far more likely to develop “healthier behaviors” than those who don’t. These kids reported a higher self-esteem. They are also far less likely to suffer behavioral problems such as hopelessness, aggression, and substance abuse.
In the same way that learning about George Washington, Betsy Ross, or any of our founding fathers (and mothers!) instills pride in American children, learning about the contributions of their ancestors actually increases our children’s patriotism by making them proud of the role their cultural heritage has played in the formation of our country.
Latino children need to see their own faces reflected in the history of our country because it creates a connection between them and the past, and it motivates our kids to start thinking about how they can also contribute and make a difference themselves.
So if you are a Latino parent wondering where to start, check out these fantastic online resources:
The “official” website of the US government for Hispanic Heritage Month. On this site, you’ll find videos, images, and links to exhibits, programs, and lesson plans.
This might be my favorite site for information and activities. Specifically, you might take a look at their sections “From Vaquero to Cowboy” and “Latino Family Stories” and “Música del Pueblo.”
A fun site for information and interactive learning. Lessons are divided according to grade level. Be sure to check out the Teacher’s Guide for help preparing and teaching the lessons.
A VERY comprehensive list of resources for educators and parents. I especially love the sections on lesson plans and resources for children.
Monica Olivera Hazelton, NBC Latino contributor and the founder and publisher of MommyMaestra.com, a site for Latino families that homeschool, as well as families with children in a traditional school setting who want to take a more active role in their children’s education. She is the 2011 winner of the “Best Latina Education Blogger” award by LATISM.