Take Action

5 Action-Oriented Ways To Celebrate Latinx Heritage Month

Donate, volunteer, learn, and more.

Spanish-speaking protestors on the National Mall in Washington, DC, during the Poor People's Campaig...
Michael Ochs Archives/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Updated: 
Originally Published: 

During the months of September and October, countries from Nicaragua and Guatemala to Mexico and Brazil celebrate their independence from colonial rule. Spanning from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, National Latinx Heritage Month — dubbed National Hispanic Heritage Month by President Ronald Regan in 1988 — is meant to celebrate the histories and cultures of Latinx people in the United States.

Make the most out of this month by expanding your knowledge of diverse Latinx cultures and lending a hand to the community where you can — and bring that energy with you through the rest of the year.

“We must advocate for Latinx folks every day for the same reason we advocate for any community — because there are undeniable, institutional injustices and violence being committed against our community members,” abolitionist organizer and educator Andrea Alejandra Gonzales tells Bustle. “Some Latinx [folks] may believe that issues of land sovereignty, exploitation, police brutality, and other forms of violence are irrelevant simply because they are further removed from the impact of violence, however, it is essential to recognize the complex and diverse experiences of the Latinx community.”

If you want to make this Latinx Heritage Month a month of action, exploring the difference between “Latinx” and "Hispanic" is a good place to start. From there, you can tune into the work of local Latinx arts organizations near you, or donate to U.S.-based groups dedicated to preserving Latinx cultural heritage. If you’re a Spanish speaker, you can sign up to be a poll worker this coming Election Day and serve as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking voters. And if you want to make a more direct impact, you might consider volunteering for an organization that serves Latinx communities near you.

However you observe Latinx Heritage Month, know that you can celebrate the contributions of Latinx people to this country, and fight for Latinx rights, any time of year. As Gonzales says, “None of us are free until all of us are free.”

Here are five action-oriented ways to celebrate.

Educate Yourself On The Difference Between "Latinx" and "Hispanic"

While there’s a lot of overlap between “Latinx” and “Hispanic,” the two terms aren’t interchangeable. The main difference between “Hispanic” and “Latinx” is that “Hispanic” refers to anyone whose culture’s primary spoken language is Spanish (which includes Spain, but not Brazil), while “Latinx” refers to anyone whose cultural heritage is based in Latin America (which includes Brazil and the Caribbean, but not Spain).

Some people may have a strong preference for one over the other, for very different reasons. “Hispanic” was introduced as a census identifier to group together people of vastly different cultures and identities, whose sole tie was the fact that they spoke Spanish, typically as a result of colonization. Saying Latino, Latina, or Latinx, by contrast, groups people by geographic origin. “Latinx” is a gender-neutral form of Latino or Latina, as is Latin@, but neither translates so easily into Spanish — some people might use “Latine” instead.

How people choose to identify is complicated. “About half of Hispanic adults say they most often describe themselves by their family’s country of origin or heritage, using terms such as Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican or Salvadoran, while another 39% most often describe themselves as ‘Hispanic’ or ‘Latino,’” Ana Gonzalez-Barrera wrote for the Pew Research Center.

According to a 2021 Gallup poll, just 4% of respondents preferred the term “Latinx” as an identifier, while 57% reported that “it does not matter to them” how they are labeled. Learning about these differences can help people understand that Latinx (or Hispanic) communities are not a monolith, and the people who make up these communities bring lots of different experiences and identities to the table.

Donate To Organizations That Advocate For Latinx Communities

Organizations across the United States work hard all year round to protect the rights of Latinx folks in this country and abroad. If you have some cash to spare this month, you might consider making a donation to one whose mission resonates with you. From immigration policy and community organizations like Make The Road NY to direct service and advocacy groups like the TransLatin@ Coalition, you can find Latinx advocacy organizations to donate to anywhere.

Support Latinx Representation In The Arts & Media

If you’re not seeing nearly enough Latinx artists on your Instagram, use this month as a wake-up call to enrich your feed. Not sure where to look? Check out whether your local museum is boosting the creations of Latinx artists during COVID. Get connected to organizations like Latinx In Media And Arts Coalition (L.I.M.A.), which created the LIMA test — think, the Bechdel test, but for the quality of Latinx representation in media. If you put supporting Latinx artists and affirming media portrayals at the top of your agenda during this month, it’s more likely to stick around with you (and your social media shares) throughout the year.

Sign Up To Work Or Interpret At The Polls

Elections don’t just happen when the presidency’s up for grabs — every year, local elections decide representation at your city and state level. Poll workers are essential to a smooth election, particularly bilingual or multilingual workers who can help voters whose first language isn’t English. Getting more Latinx folks out to the polls is essential for increasing representation in government, especially since, historically, Latinx folks have had the lowest voting rates among all major racial and ethnic groups. If you speak Spanish, you can connect with your local Board of Elections to see if they need poll workers or interpreters this Nov. 2. (In some cities, like New York, these positions are paid, too!)

Volunteer For Organizations That Serve Your Local Latinx Communities

There’s no better way to take action this month than by serving Latinx communities directly through volunteering. From mentoring students through the college admissions process in order to help close the education gap at Latino U College Access, to teaching basic computing skills to Latinx community members in Oregon with the Latino Community Association, there’s no limit to where you can lend a hand. (VolunteerMatch is a great tool for finding volunteer opportunities near you.)

Sources:

Andrea Alejandra Gonzales, abolitionist organizer and educator