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Hispanic Heritage Month is a Great Time to Expand Our Cultural Understanding

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, I want to share an idea: challenge yourself to discover at least three new things about this rich, beautiful, complex culture.

Whether you’re already familiar with these topics or learning about them for the first time, you are sure to broaden your perspective and find inspiration beyond what you already know.

As a starting point, consider exploring these suggestions:

Ask yourself what is being commemorated and the significance of why the celebration runs mid-September until mid-October. Learn the true date of Mexican Independence Day and why it is not the fifth of May, when many incorrectly celebrate it.

Explore not just what is being celebrated during Hispanic Heritage Month, but the places where those who celebrate trace their roots.  You may be surprised by the vast nations spanned by the culture.

Have you ever used the terms Latino, Latina, and Hispanic interchangeably? Explore these terms to better understand appropriate usage. You may also see references to being Latine, so you might examine why this is preferred by some over being called Latinx.

Enlighten yourself by seeking out the stories of those you may not have learned about in high school history class. What contributions did Cesar Chavez make to the farming community that still impact lives today? What life-changing event inspired writer Julia Alvarez to write her poem “Exile,” and what impact did belonging to two cultures have on her works? Who was the first Hispanic-American woman in space and how did her work continue making history?

Support a Hispanic- or Latine-owned business. And, if you’re fortunate enough to have one within your community, welcome the opportunity to shop local. Learn about the culture as you invest in your neighborhood — a win/win!

Scrolling through your steaming networks for something to watch on a Friday night? Explore the award-winning works of director Guillermo del Toro, some of which you may already be familiar with but didn’t know the man behind them. Gain a glimpse into the warm, rich, colorful community of Washington Heights, New York City as you dive into “In the Heights.” Find out what inspires “The Boy from Medillin” and why, despite his incredible fame and fortune, he’s more like you and I than you may think.

Broaden your palette. How many times have you been at a Hispanic heritage celebration and the menu only consisted of tacos, nachos, and tequila? Diversify your culinary experience with Ecuadorian Llapingachos. Try a taste of Chile with a sweet and savory Pastel de Choclo. Learn why Cuban Ropa Vieja translates to “old clothes” in English. Embrace the culture by treating yourself to something delicious.

Most of all, challenge yourself to embrace Hispanic culture all year long, not just during recognition month. Challenge yourself to embrace many cultures other than your own each day. Imagine life through a kaleidoscopic lens of diversity, rather than the singular lens of our own perspective. What a beautiful picture.