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What falls under the Hispanic umbrella? Breaking down who is celebrated this month

hispanic meaning
Posted at 1:57 PM, Sep 20, 2022

Labels like Hispanic and Latino have kicked up debates about identity.

From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Americans celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico the Caribbean and Central and South America. But why is it called National Hispanic Heritage Month?

"It's overall a celebration of just everyone's heritage, right? So, where they come from, where they are at, whether they are here in the U.S. or come from other different countries," said Manual Del Real, executive director for HSI Initiatives & Inclusion at Metropolitan State University Denver. "This term Hispanic right, it's really the government term that was established in the Census in the 1980s. So that's the term that really we use in terms of all governmental associations."

Del Real said the term Hispanic, according to the U.S. government, is inclusive of Latinos, but the definition of the word is not.

The definition of the word in the dictionary refers to "Hispanic" as a Spanish-speaking person living in the U.S., especially one of Latin American descent. That excludes those from the Caribbean, Central and South American countries who speak other languages.

"That term Hispanic also is really just not inclusive of non-Spanish speaking countries, so that's where the term Latino now is being used to then incorporate Portuguese and French. So a lot of the other countries as well that make up Central America," Del Real said.

The United States began observing Hispanic Heritage Month in 1968. However, today, those who don't identify as Hispanic may not feel celebrated.

"There are individuals that do feel like a disconnect, right, because they feel like maybe I'm not Spanish enough or Hispanic enough or Latina enough," Del Real said. "We really gotta acknowledge, you know, that this population is the second largest ethnic group in the nation and so it's going to continue to grow."