Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at Duke and beyond

Beginning Sept. 15, the United States will observe Hispanic Heritage Month, a commemoration of the rich culture and history of Latin America and Americans of Latine descent. 

As of 2022, the Latine population of the United States has reached 63.7 million and comprises 19.1% of the entire nation’s population - making Latine Americans the largest ethnic minority in the U.S. Within those 63.7 million Latine Americans, Americans of Mexican descent are the largest group at 37.2 million people; Americans of Puerto Rican descent are the second largest group, with 5.8 million Puerto Rican Americans living in the mainland U.S and another 3.1 million living on the island of Puerto Rico.

The observation of Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968, when President Lyndon B. Johnson established the celebratory period as Hispanic Heritage Week.  Reagan expanded the observation to a full 30 days in 1988, and the nation officially celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month for the first time under President George H. W. Bush in 1989. Unlike most awareness and cultural celebration months, which typically remain within one calendar month, Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15; this is an intentional choice with notable historical significance, as Sept. 15 marks the independence anniversaries of the nations of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Shortly after–on Sept. 16, 18 and 21 respectively–Mexico, Chile and Belize will celebrate their independence anniversaries.  

Both on and off Duke’s campus, there are many ways for students to interact with Latine culture or perhaps celebrate their own ancestry during Hispanic Heritage Month. This year’s theme for Hispanic Heritage Month at Duke is “Juntos Somos Más” (which translates to “Together We are More”). To start off the month strong, Mi Gente and the Center for Multicultural Affairs are hosting a Hispanic Heritage Month 2023 Kickoff Sept. 15 in the Bryan Center Plaza. Conociendo Latinxs at Duke provides a space for Latine-identifying students to find their community and will take place Sept. 19 on the West Duke Lawn. Plenty of opportunities for students to learn more about Latin dance and music on campus are also available throughout the month, such as the Latin Dance Workshop at the Arts Annex Sept. 22 and Bachata Night at the Gothic Grill Sept. 29. Additionally, in collaboration with LDOC, Mi Gente is creating a Spotify playlist for Hispanic Heritage Month celebrating the diverse facets of the Latine diaspora; students can submit song suggestions that reflect their cultural heritage or simply songs they enjoy. 

For Spanish-speaking students who identify as Catholic, a Spanish Mass will be held at the Falcone-Arena House Sept. 24 in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. Duke Latino Medical Students Association will host a Hispanic Heritage Month Gala on Oct. 5 at the Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans Center, where they will be collecting donations for Duke Heart for Honduras. To close off the month, a Latine Heritage Month Closing Kickback will take place Oct. 11 at The Landing. The full list of events Duke has to offer to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month can be found on the Center For Multicultural Affairs website

Off campus, there is still plenty of celebrating to do. The Museum of Life and Science will be hosting their annual game of La Lotería, in which participants who attend a variety of events in Durham throughout Hispanic Heritage Month compete to fill out their tabla (similar to a bingo card) in order to win special prizes. Players will mainly be able to fill out their tabla by visiting the Durham Farmers Market; however, other events sponsored by the museum at which players can also fill out their tabla include a Bilingual Spanish Storytime and a Teddy Bear Hospital both taking place Sept. 24. Also occurring on Sept. 24 is El Futuro Mental Health Clinic’s Hispanic Heritage Kermes, a festival containing traditional food, dance competitions, art, cultural exhibitions and carnival games for children. 

The neighboring city of Raleigh also has much to offer for those looking to make the most of Hispanic Heritage Month. Fayetteville Street’s La Fiesta Del Pueblo takes place Sept. 17 and includes music and dance performances, art exhibits, educational booths and activities for all ages. For those looking to simply kick back and relax while still enjoying Latine culture, Peach Road Cultural Center will be hosting an outdoor movie night with a Spanish screening of “Encanto” Sept. 22.  

Although Hispanic Heritage Month is only officially celebrated for 30 days, it is still crucial to remember and honor the history, culture and contributions of Latine Americans every month of the year.


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