The Ultimate Guide to Hispanic Heritage Month Activities
hispanic heritage month activities

Publication: Sep 1, 2021

Inside: A collection of Hispanic Heritage Month activities and ideas for schools or to celebrate at home.

National Hispanic Heritage Month occurs every year in the United States, from September 15th to October 15th.

It’s a month to celebrate the achievements of famous Hispanic Americans, along with everyday people and families. It’s also the perfect chance to celebrate Latino culture in general, at home or as a school.

First, let’s take a look at how Hispanic Heritage Month came to be, and answer some common questions.

Then, I’ll share a ton of ideas for honoring this special month!

If you are already familiar with the history of National Hispanic Heritage Month and just want to see the activities, click here.

When Did Hispanic Heritage Month Begin?

It began as a week-long celebration in the United States under President Johnson, but was extended to a month by President Reagan. California Congressman George E. Brown first introduced the idea.

Hispanic Heritage Month takes place September 15 to October 15 every year as a time to recognize and celebrate the many contributions, diverse cultures, and extensive histories of the American Latino community. Beginning in 1968, Hispanic Heritage Month was originally observed as “Hispanic Heritage Week” under President Lyndon Johnson, but it was later extended to a month during President Ronald Reagan’s term in 1988.

– White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative, Dept. of Education

Image credit

Why Does Hispanic Heritage Month Start In the Middle of the Month?

You might think it makes more sense to pick one month and declare it National Hispanic Heritage Month. There’s a special reason, though, that it starts on September 15th.

September 15 was chosen as the kickoff because it coincides with the Independence Day celebrations of five “Central American neighbors,” as Johnson called them—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Those five nations declared their independence from Spain on September 15, 1821.

History.com

Other Spanish-speaking nations have anniversaries close to those dates as well. Mexico– our literal neighbor– declared independence from Spain on September 16th, 1810, and Chile did the same on September 18th, 1810.

Why Do We Have Hispanic Heritage Month?

Throughout U.S. history, Latinx communities have had to struggle for equal rights. The Chicano population (Mexican Americans) especially experienced discrimination, and sometimes brutally.

(I detail more of this history in my post, What’s the Big Deal About Sombreros?)

Hispanic Heritage Month was established as a way to honor previously overlooked Latinx contributions and highlight new ones, going forward.

“Not all of the contributions made by Hispanic Americans to our society are so visible or so widely celebrated, however. Hispanic Americans have enriched our nation beyond measure with the quiet strength of closely knit families and proud communities.”

– President Bush, Proclamation 6021—National Hispanic Heritage Month, 1989

As of 2020, the Hispanic/Latino population in the U.S. was approximately 18% of the population. (Census.gov)

Why Is It called Hispanic Heritage Month?

The term Hispanic has somewhat fallen out of popularity–fairly– due its colonialist connotations. (Hispanic generally means Spanish-speaking, and refers to people, countries, or cultures connected to Spain.)

People from these 21 Spanish-speaking countries are considered to be of “Hispanic heritage”:

21 Spanish speaking countries map
  1. Argentina
  2. Bolivia
  3. Chile
  4. Colombia
  5. Costa Rica
  6. Cuba
  7. Dominican Republic
  8. Ecuador
  9. El Salvador
  10. Equatorial Guinea
  11. Guatemala
  12. Honduras
  13. Mexico
  14. Nicaragua
  15. Panama
  16. Paraguay
  17. Peru
  18. Puerto Rico
  19. Spain
  20. Uruguay
  21. Venezuela

It’s a little complicated, though, to find a better word that means the same thing.

Many people prefer to say Latino or Latinx Heritage Month, thought that would technically refer to Central America and South America, and include places like Brazil.

Including neighbors makes more sense to me than including Americans whose ancestors are from Spain, but I don’t make the rules of course. We’ll see if there’s an official name change sometime soon!

Related: Free Map Worksheet of the 21 Spanish Speaking Countries

HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH ACTIVITIES

All of that information is great, but how do we make Hispanic Heritage Month meaningful and accessible for our students?

These lesson plans and activities will give you plenty of authentic, fun, and worthwhile ideas.

One more thing: before you dive in, I recommend reading this resource packet from Teaching for Change.

Ironically, typical heritage month programs and celebrations may do as much to
reinforce stereotypes as they do to challenge them. It is important to acknowledge marginalized histories, but special events in isolation can affirm stereotypes rather than negate them… Honor Latino/Hispanic Heritage month by providing time for teachers to deepen their own background knowledge and make plans to infuse Latino history into their curriculums.

– Beyond Heroes and Holidays:
A Practical Guide for K12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development, by Deborah Menkart

Okay, the rest of this post is packed with many meaningful ideas for Hispanic Heritage Month Activities!

To jump to a specific section, click on one of the links below:

Let’s get started!

frida kahlo bulletin board hispanic heritage month

Created by Davis Marret from Cario Middle in Charleston, SC. See the template here

Activities and Resources for Hispanic Heritage Month

Here are printable lesson and activities for learning about Latino Heritage topics.

Learn What Hispanic Heritage Month is:

1. 10 Slides Introducing HHM
These simple and well-designed slides provide a nice introduction to Hispanic Heritage Month for kids. Easy and done-for-you!
(Elementary and up.)

2. Free Google Slideshow
Use these slides to introduce general facts, places, and people related to HHM.
(74 slides in English, best for high school.)

3. HHM Crossword Puzzle
This Printable PDF covers important vocabulary.
(English, best for Middle – High School.)

5. Leveled Reading Passages
This pack of 5 free readings present the basics of HHM.
(English, for Elementary and up.)

6. Intro Video to Hispanic Heritage Month for Kids
This video also introduces kids to HHM, with colorful illustrations.
(English, for Elementary and up.)

Learn About Famous Latinos:

1. Coloring Pages
For all ages, these free coloring pages feature 30+ famous Spanish speakers.

2. Guess Who Game
Download a free guessing game for reviewing famous Latinos/Hispanics throughout history and from current events.

3. Biography Poster Project
Fun for Spanish Teachers describes a really good poster project that includes a QR code where students link to a voice recording.
(Elementary and up.)

Printable Posters and Bulletin Boards:

1. Free Printable Portraits
Print these full-color posters of Latino writers, activists, leaders, scientists, athletes, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians and others to display for a bulletin board.

2. Simple Intro Poster
This is one-page bilingual printable with a simple paragraph explaining what HHM is.

3. Printable HHM Phrase
These free printable letters form the phrase “Hispanic Heritage Month” using flags. Very cute!

4. Printable Quotes from Famous Latinos
These quotes are available in Spanish and English and have zen coloring backgrounds older students will like.

Learn About the Spanish Speaking Countries:

1. Card Games and Printable Maps
Download my free card games and maps for learning and reviewing the Spanish-speaking countries, capitals, flags, maps, and fun facts.

2. Free research Project for Spanish Speaking Countries
Printables to guide students as they research different countries and take notes on them. Really nice layout!
(Spanish, Middle School and up)

3. Simple Geography Brochure Project
This is an editable outline you can give students to gather basic facts about the country they choose. Includes a detailed rubric!
(English, Upper Elementary and up)

4. $1 Printable Flags
Simple banner of mini-flags to print and add color to a bulletin board or room!

5. Presentation to Each Country
These slides show where each country is, along with capital and a few photos.

Games:

Play Cuban dominoes

More Resources:

Virtual tour of the National Museum of the American Latino.

Latino Civil Rights Timeline with linked Lesson Ideas. (Background for teachers, high school +)

Online quizzes on famous Hispanic Americans and Latin Entertainers.

Interactive lesson from PBS on “Latinos Share Their Experiences“.
(Middle school +)

The Smithsonian has a large collection of resources as well. I found it overwhelming to navigate, but feel free to browse!

5 Simple Ways To Celebrate HHM for Schools

Some of these are “lighter” ideas and should always be in the context of deeper cultural studies.

We should always be incorporating in-depth culture year-round, through equity-focused curriculum.

1. Do trivia with prizes over the morning announcements.

You can see my post with 31 Days of Hispanic Heritage Month Trivia for plenty of school-appropriate questions and fun facts.

These online quizzes on famous Hispanic Americans and Latin Entertainers have info you can use as well.

An alternative could be to have fun little games by the office or in the lunchroom (idea from the FB group Spanish Teachers in the U.S: “How many frijoles in the jar, flan flavor guessing contest, piñata on the last day, etc.”)

2. CELEBRATE LATIN CULTURE WITH MUSIC

This is a great time to expose your students to all different kind of music in Spanish! I have a huge collection of Spanish Songs and playlists by genre and themes, or you can browse this list of cultural classics.

Allison from Mis Clases Locas also had the great idea to do a Hispanic Heritage Music Madness bracket. 

Select a song from each country, and vote throughout the month until you have a winning song!

3. Drum up Interest with Displays and realia

Set up a bulletin board with artifacts, quotes, or biographies in the background.

Thank you to Alaid Zepol, from JLSimpson MS in Leesburg, VA for sharing pictures from their 2nd International Night!

Assign a famous Hispanic-American or Spanish Speaker as a project. Some of these could be selected to display in the hall or by the school entry as a way to spotlight Hispanic Heritage Month.

Some schools go big with a school-wide event that features Latin food, music, traditional games, country-themed tables, dancing, a Taco Truck Day, etc. If you have the resources for it, these would be really fun!

4. Involve the Community

Invite community members to talk or share something cultural (a dance lesson, cooking lesson, craft, childhood stories, etc.)

Note: be mindful if you do this! Make sure you are not burdening families or students to educate and share unless you know they are eager to do so.

5. Include All Content Areas

Coordinate with other teachers to emphasize the Hispanic-American community. Talk with the art teacher about incorporating an artisan craft or studying a Hispanic artist like Frida Kahlo (not Mexican-American, but she did spend quite a bit of time in the U.S.)

Another example would be incorporating literature. For example:

HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH CRAFTS & CULTURE

nazca-lines-craft

BOOKS on Famous Latinx Leaders

These books are a great start for learning about famous Hispanic Americans.

I have great lists of famous Spanish speakers and inspiring Latina leaders. They link to posts with quotes, resources, videos, book, and more on each person. If you are working with students, here are some of my favorite high-interest people to teach about:

MOVIES FOR HHM

This is the perfect time to show a movie that showcases Hispanic culture. Here’s where to find them!

Movies to show in class:

The Ultimate List of Movies for Spanish Class from Secondary Spanish Space (includes ratings, and a brief synopsis).

G and PG Movies in Spanish from Spanish Mama

Movies for teachers/adults or need editing for class:

movies set in Spain

INFOGRAPHS

Here are some cool infographs you can use for Hispanic Heritage Month activities:

Credit: NBC News
Credit: H&R Block

6 Famous SONGS in Spanish

Music is an excellent way to share language and culture at the same time. There are so many songs you could use this month! Check out my All-Time Classic Songs in Spanish, or Folk Songs in Spanish for Kids, or choose from the few I’ve featured below:

LA GOZADERA

Celebrate Latin American countries in this happy song. If the video isn’t appropriate for your school, consider using a version that just features the lyrics.

GUANTANAMERA

Expose your students to one of the great classics in Spanish, by the legendary Celia Cruz.

LA BAMBA

La Bamba isn’t just one of the most famous songs in Spanish, it features a Chicano artist who bridged Mexico and the US through his life and music.

DE COLORES

A traditional song for children, De Colores is a beautiful and classic Hispanic song that can be enjoyed by all ages.

Bidi Bidi Bom Bom

Selena is a legendary example of life as a Mexican-American artist. Despite being born Mexican parents, she only spoke English as a young child and had to learn Spanish later on, for her music.

HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH VIDEOS

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with Google Arts (obviously not all of Frida Kahlo’s paintings can be used in every classroom context):

Kids Talk About Hispanic Heritage Month (in English):

Hispanic Heritage Month, as explained by young Disney Stars:

How Pitbull’s Cuban-American family came to the U.S:

Mes de la Herencia Hispana

A series of adorable videos where young kids introduce themselves and their Latino roots and culture, in Spanish:

Latino Learning Modules

This one explains the terms Hispanic, Latino, and Chicano

Biographies in Simple Spanish:

A simple introduction to Ellen Ochoa. (This is part of a series introducing famous Hispanics for young children- though I bet you could use it for older students as well! So far there are intros for Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez, Roberto Clemente, Alberto Baez, and more):

An song intro to HHM and Latin culture from Nickelodeon (preview for Shakira’s outfit, hah- up to you!):

Video in English, mostly text:

FOOD AND RECIPES

Pico de Gallo Receta from Mundo de Pepita

Recipes by region: https://www.goya.com/en/recipes/by-region

Image Credits

Mission Mural – Political Art” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by fabola

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Hey! I’m Elisabeth, a teacher and mom raising three bilingual kids in the Peruvian jungle. Read our story here. I love digging up the best-of-the-best Spanish resources for all you busy parents and teachers!

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9 Comments

  1. Thanks for the informative post! Linking back to you 🙂

    Reply
  2. Wow! Thank you so much. You have some of my favorites, and also ideas I never thought of. Plenty to choose from.

    Reply
  3. These are great suggestions! The art teacher and I are doing an immersion Spanish/Art class this year instead of a semester of each subject separately. We have the first month to start class and take notes over art, cover Spanish colors and alphabet, which then led us to HH Month for 2 weeks, then we spend all of October on Día de los Muertos. It’s a blast so far! These are great to keep in mind for future years!

    Reply
  4. Thanks for these resources. I always find something super useful on your site.

    Reply
  5. i love it thank you so much

    Reply
  6. The HIspanic heritage is not American but European. To understand why it is Latino and Hispanic one must begin with the culture and political system that laid its perimeters Unlike the way it is used by poorly educated people Latino does not refer to a colored race but the language of ancient Rome, Latino, from which evolved what are called Romance dialects such as French, Italian, Spanish, Porttuguese. Similarly labels such as Hispanic or Hispania do not define a racial grouping as much as a Roman geography with such labels as Britannia, Italia, Germania, Lusitania (Portugal). Hibernia, Caledonia, and so on. Romanization of Hispania – Wikipedia
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanization_of_Hispania
    Several factors aided the process of Romanization: Creation of civil infrastructure, including road networks and urban sanitation. Commercial interaction within regions and the wider Roman world. Foundation of colonia; settling Roman military veterans in newly created towns and cities. The …

    Romanization Of Hispania – Image Results
    Roman conquest of Hispania – YouTube
    Spania – Wikipedia
    Hispania – Wikipedia
    What’s the difference between Hispanic and Latino? – Quora
    More Romanization Of Hispania images

    Reply
  7. Thank you so much for these resources. It is great to educate my kids in America about the Hispanic heritage!

    Reply

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