5 Action-Oriented Ways To Celebrate Latinx Heritage Month

Sign up to be a poll interpreter, donate to advocacy orgs, and more.

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 of this month to learn as much about diverse Latinx cultures and communities as you can — and bring that energy with you through the rest of the year. 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 mix education with advocacy, you might want to hop into the Latinos in the South virtual conference.

However you observe Latinx Heritage Month, know that you can celebrate the contributions of Latinx people to this country any time of year. 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 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 outside of the United States 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 Pew's 2020 research, only around 3% of respondents used "Latinx" to describe themselves.

Learning about these differences can help people understand that the Latinx (or Hispanic) community is 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 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 quality of Latinx media representation. 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

With COVID still in the background of this election season, many poll sites are having trouble sourcing poll workers, who help voters navigate the process of casting a ballot. Poll workers are essential to a smooth election, particularly bilingual or multilingual workers who can help voters whose first language isn't English. If you speak Spanish, you can connect with your local Board of Elections to see if they need poll workers or interpreters this Nov. 3. (These positions are sometimes paid, too!)

Tune In To The Latinos In The South Virtual Conference

Latinos in the South is a coalition-building program of the Latino Commission on AIDS. Like most other big events in 2020, their conference is going virtual. Celebrate Latinx Heritage Month from Sept. 28-30 by signing up for this free Latinx LGBTQ conference focusing on difference aspects of Latinx wellness. Whether you're looking to learn more about equitable healthcare in the south, AfroLatinx migrant activism, or Latinx movements against transphobia, the conference is bound to be eye-opening. You can register for free here.