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September 15, 2023

What Does It Mean To Be Hispanic?: Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

By Laura Hoffman, Public Services Librarian

This photo and the ones that follow are from the author’s collection of old family pictures.

Did you know that National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated between two months? From September 15th to October 15th, cities nationwide celebrate our community members who identify as Hispanic. These dates align with when many Central American countries celebrate their independence from Spain. During this time, a special spotlight is shined on our Hispanic community and their contributions to our society.

But what does it mean to identify as Hispanic? I am a quarter Spanish and grew up hearing tales of the old country where my bisabuelos (great-grandparents) were from. Shortly before my Abuela (grandmother) was born, they fled Spain under persecution of Franco’s early regime.


They settled in Gary, Indiana, and the rest is history. Being proud of my genes, I one day blurted out something about being Hispanic in front of my mother and Abuela. And, let me tell you, I got the biggest earful about how we were not Hispanic but Spanish. I have spent the last few years trying to unpack what they meant.

I recently thought I was close to understanding. Spanish cuisine has more Mediterranean connections than most other Spanish-speaking countries. Most other Spanish-speaking countries only speak Spanish because of the Spanish Inquisition. Spain is European, while most other Hispanic countries are South American. Logically, being Spanish does not equate to being Hispanic.

But, in researching for this blog, I stumbled upon a recent article from Pew Research Center titled Who is Hispanic?. It, too, attempts to understand and define what it means to identify as Hispanic. In their research, they note that many people and surveys include people from Spain as Hispanic because they speak Spanish. This new-to-me information confused me all over again on whether I can identify as Hispanic.

As humans, we desire to quantify things that are not tangible, like identity. Being Hispanic is more than being able to speak Spanish. It is more than what someone eats or the color of their skin. It is more than what statistics and research can demonstrate. Being Hispanic (or any other identification) is what each individual makes of it. There is no one definition of the Hispanic experience. And with that, there is no one way to celebrate those experiences.

So, grab some flan with a friend, start learning Spanish on Mango (which is free with your library card), read a book by a Hispanic author, or use a library museum pass to explore Latinx art. Let’s start celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month!

Hispanic Heritage Month Storytime Celebration

Join special guests City Councilors Cecilia Coble and Crystal Neumann for a special storytime at the library celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month!

October 10 | 10-11 AM | Fishers Library

No registration required.

Hispanic Heritage Month Booklist

Explore our recommended titles to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, including new books, fiction, non-fiction, cookbooks, and more! View the full booklist here.

The Wind Knows My Name by Isabel Allende Mi Cocina by Rick Martinez Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

Other Local Places Celebrating:

Library Museum Passes

Newfields Family Day: Hispanic Heritage Month Partnership with Mexican Cultural Center of Indiana (MECACI)

FIESTA Indianapolis by La Plaza Indy

Hoosier Latino Celebration by the Indiana Historical Society

Viernes Cultural: Latin Night at Lugar Plaza by the Indianapolis Cultural Trail

Online Educational Resources

National Parks Services

National Museum of the American Latino

Pew Research Center

The Today Show

Mango Language App (Free with Library Card)