In 1968, National Hispanic Heritage Week in the United States was inaugurated under President Lyndon Johnson, and in 1988 it was expanded to a full month under President Ronald Reagan. Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the contributions of Hispanic Americans to U.S. society and culture. Some ground-breaking inventions by Hispanic Americans include color televisions, the artificial heart and earthquake-sensing technology.
When is Hispanic Heritage Month?
Hispanic Heritage Month is annually observed September 15 to October 15, in conjunction with the anniversaries of independence for several Latin American countries. September 15 is Independence Day for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile celebrate independence on September 16 and 18, respectively, and Belize celebrates its freedom on September 21.
What Do Hispanic Cultures Share?
What all Latin American countries have in common is a deep love of food and family. Drawing on cherished recipes passed down through generations, many favorite Hispanic dishes use similar ingredients. However, each country and region creates its own specialties with unique flavors and ingredients.
Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with Food
One of the easiest ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month is to explore the rich variety of foods from different countries. You could pick a different dish to prepare one night each week during Hispanic Heritage Month.
Or have a fiesta: Invite friends and family over, asking everyone to prepare a special dish. While potlucks aren’t common in Latin American countries, they’re a wonderful tradition in the U.S. – and a great way to bring cultures together. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- A favorite Salvadoran street food: Pupusas (stuffed tortillas) can be filled with anything from cheese to pork or beans, and served as an appetizer or main course. Considered El Salvador’s national dish, it’s a comfort food that’s simple to make and so, so good.
- DID YOU KNOW? Historians think pupusas date back 2,000 years ago to the indigenous Pipil tribe, after finding evidence at the site of a native village buried by ashes from a volcanic explosion.
- A tasty soup from Mexico: Pozole is a flavor-packed soup, often served on special occasions, that blends hominy, spices, pork, or chicken and vegetables. You can make it in less than an hour, but the best pozole can take a couple of days from start to finish.
- DID YOU KNOW? Mexican cuisine is safeguarded on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization list. UNESCO used words like “elaborate” and “symbol-laden” in describing the flavorful foods that “reinforce social bonds, and build stronger local, regional and national identities.”
- A Puerto Rican favorite with plantains: Camarofongo (Shrimp Mofongo) is a traditional Puerto Rican dish that features mashed plantains with chicharrones (crunchy pork rinds) and sautéed shrimp. There are as many variations of mofongo as you can imagine, and it’s sure to become a new favorite.
- DID YOU KNOW? Mofongo blends the culinary heritage of three cultures: the Taíno, indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, who used plantains; the enslaved West Africans, who made fufu with boiled, mashed root vegetables in a wooden mortar; and the Spanish, who used sofrito sauce.
- A little something sweet: Every Latin American country wants to claim tres leches (three milk cake) as its own, and there’s evidence that it even has ties to England in the Middle Ages. Regardless of where it came from, it’s a delicious finish for a meal: a light sponge cake soaked in a sweet milk mixture, with a touch of cinnamon. But don’t stop there – feel free to experiment and make the recipe your own with the addition of a caramel sauce or liquor, or whatever you want to add.
Ready to celebrate? Find more tasty ideas for your family fiesta on our Hispanic Heritage Month page.