by Luciana Paulise
Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.
The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within these 30 days.
Hispanic and Latino Americans amount to an estimated 17.8% of the total U.S. population, making up the largest ethnic minority, and are integral to the prosperity of the U.S. Their contributions to the nation continue to be immeasurable.
The White House published on September 14 a proclamation on National Hispanic Heritage Month:
“We benefit from the many contributions of Hispanic scientists working in labs across the country to help us fight COVID-19 and the doctors and the nurses on the front lines caring for people’s health. Our Nation is represented by Hispanic diplomats who share our values in countries all over the world and are strengthened by military members and their families who serve and sacrifice for the United States. Our communities are represented by Hispanic elected officials, and our children are taught by Hispanic teachers. Our future will be shaped by Hispanic engineers who are working to develop new technology that will help us grasp our clean energy future and by the skilled union workers who are going to build it.”
How to observe Hispanic Heritage Month
While Hispanic Heritage Month is usually celebrated by organizing a lunch with traditional music and food. When in-company celebrations may not be possible yet, a remote celebration is also an option. Here are some recommendations:
- Launch a Hispanic ERG (employee resource group). ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups that foster diverse and inclusive workplaces while increasing employee engagement and transparency. They are made up of individuals who join together based on common interests, backgrounds or demographic factors such as gender, race or ethnicity.
- Invite Spanish speakers and Organize webinars in Spanish throughout the month
- Offer Spanish lessons
- Recommend and give away books in Spanish
- Offer workforce development courses in Spanish
- Organize an online cooking event, where employees can share traditional dishes and recipes
- Utilize company climate surveys to assess Hispanic employees experience and address any special needs to empower them
- Communicate the benefits of diverse cultures and how they can unleash innovation and engagement
- Grant the opportunity to a Hispanic to organize a virtual happy hour “the Latin way”
- Offer paid coaching, mentoring and reverse mentoring sessions to help Hispanics overcome barriers in career growth
Organizations that prioritize equity and diversity drive a more collaborative and innovative work environment and strengthen resilience. On the other hand, the impact of not being diverse translates to a smaller talent pool, more hiring costs and less collaboration, among others. Companies have a key role in helping minorities thrive and live their life to the fullest.
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