I’ve always been a little more attuned to Mexico’s Independence Day than might be expected because it is also my birthday. But I recently found out that September 16, along with the independence days for six other Latin American countries, is the reason that we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 through October 15. (Originally the celebration was limited to the week that included September 15 and 16 but was expanded to a month in 1988.) I have also lived all of my adult life in states with large populations of Hispanics so I have the opportunity to enjoy a lot of Hispanic culture and have a BIG celebration on my birthday–okay, the dancing and celebrating wasn’t really for me but I still enjoyed it.
There doesn’t appear to be a single organization that coordinates this heritage month, perhaps appropriately since Hispanic culture is extremely varied. According to the Library of Congress, this year’s theme (which was also the 2011 theme) is “Many Backgrounds, Many Stories…One American Spirit.” Other organizations have other themes but this one fits very well with libraries and provides a great opportunity to combine year-round Día activities with National Hispanic Heritage Month and share bilingual and multicultural stories.
We often focus a lot of attention on picture books for use with preschool children but I recently read two books by Alma Flor Ada that would be great to share with older children. Dancing Home is told in alternating perspectives as two girls compare changes in their lives. Margarita, born in Texas, considers herself to be a “true American,” while her cousin Lupe was born in Mexico. Written with her son, Gabriel M. Zubizarreta, the book is about adapting, embracing one’s own heritage, and developing an appreciation for other people’s backgrounds. Read chapter 14, Folklórico Dance, aloud to share the flavor of the book. One of the leading voices in Hispanic literature, also share Ada’s Love, Amalia with children. A story of loss and love–Amalia’s friend is moving away and she is angry and upset–but she relies on the wisdom her abuelita shared to help her cope with this, and an even greater loss.
Literature and stories really do help us connect our many backgrounds and show our American spirit. What books are you sharing during National Hispanic Heritage Month?