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What now has become a month to celebrate the cultures, contributions and resilience of, Hispanic, Latinx and Latino-identified communities around the world started more than 50 years ago, when President Lyndon Johnson’s Proclamation 3869 launched a week-long celebration of the histories,  cultures and contributions of citizens of Hispanic origin to America’s national heritage. 

Since then, the one-week event has grown into what is known by many as Hispanic Heritage Month — a commemoration from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 that is intrinsically linked to the independence anniversaries of several Latin American nations including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua as well as Mexico’s independence on September 16  and uplifts the cultural legacy of a group deeply-rooted in rich traditions. 

But what is the difference between Latinx and Hispanic communities? Juliana Martínez, author and assistant professor at American University, provides a quick breakdown of the terms: 

  • “Hispanic” is the oldest term used to refer to the largest and one of the most diverse growing minorities in the U.S. The word is often associated with the origins of Spanish colonialism in America and can exclude indigenous, Brazilian and other non-Spanish-speaking groups. 
  • “Latino” is thought to be more inclusive in terms of geography as it doesn’t relate to language and embraces the whole region. However, the androcentric nature of this Spanish-language term, i.e. the use of masculine form as universal, excludes an entire group of identities. 
  • “Latinx” a newer term that has recently gained popularity among scholars, activists and millennials that is inclusive of gender-expansive and gender non-conforming individuals. Additionally, “Latinx” challenges the binary nature of the Spanish-language term Latino(a). The powerful “X” has opened the door to a variety of identities, and it is also used in the term “Chicanx(o/a)” to highlight the broad indigenous heritage of many groups.
  • Latinx is an ethnic, cultural and geographical category, whereas Hispanic is a linguistic division. Brazilians are Latinxs but they are not Hispanic. Spaniards are not Latinxs but they are Hispanic.

This month-long celebration has become a great opportunity to remember, acknowledge, and educate about multiculturalism and the history of the countless contributions of these communities to the US. 

And so, we aim that this reading list provides some light into the richness and complexity of the histories, cultures and contributions of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society. 

Adapted from: Latinx Heritage Month: More Than One Word, More Than One Heritage, by Milagros Chirinos, September 13, 2019

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