How to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month — both at home and in person

Hispanic Heritage Month, which actually includes both September and October, started on Sept. 15, and runs until Oct. 15.

It’s set up that way to include independence days for Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua and also includes Columbus Day, which is known in many Spanish-speaking countries as Dia de la Raza.

The month’s origins date to 1968, when Congress passed a law authorizing the week including Sept. 15 and 16 as Hispanic Heritage Week. Congress asked President Lyndon Johnson to recognize the week with a proclamation.

The tradition continued each year for two decades until the first President George Bush followed Congress’ initiative to extend the week into a month in 1988, and the first presidential proclamation came for Hispanic Heritage Month came in 1989.

Hispanic Heritage Month’s traditional celebrations include events focused on food, music, costume, dance, film and more. But as with most of the traditionally exuberant public celebrations since March, the coronavirus pandemic has limited in-person activities in 2020.

However, there are still a number of ways to celebrate this month.

Here’s a short list of virtual activities:

  • The Latino Center at the Smithsonian Institution has listed a number of resources online. One section, called Descubra!, lists a number of family activities, including a celebration of pottery and a Central American geography challenge that includes exploration of Argentina.
  • If you have a teenager in your life who likes to read, be sure to follow the Fairfax County Public Library on Instagram in the coming weeks. The library’s Instagram Story will include recommendations from the annual Pura Belpre awards. The medal, named after the first Latina librarian in New York City, is awarded each year to an author and illustrator whose work “best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.” The award-winning book for 2020 was Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, by Carlos Hernandez.
  • If you’re tired of Netflix’s recommendations, take a look at the AFI Silver Theatre‘s recommendations during its Latin American Film Festival, running from Sept. 25 to Oct. 7. You can subscribe to the entire schedule, or purchase films for streaming individually. See the trailer below. The films include works from directors based in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Guatemala, Chile and the United States. “The Heist of the Century,” scheduled for Sept. 25, is based on one of the most famous bank robberies in the history of Argentina, and is also the premise for the popular series “Money Heist.”

  • You don’t have to be a resident of D.C. to access the D.C. Public Library’s resources. The library has a list of Hispanic Heritage Month books and movies. In addition, the virtual trivia night on Sept. 21 will have a Hispanic Heritage Month theme.
  • The National Portrait Gallery, while it is also open for in-person visits, will be curating an online program throughout the month designed for younger audiences. It’s called Young Portrait Explorers, and throughout the next 25 days, it will feature luminaries including Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor (Oct. 20) and musician Selena (Sept. 22).
  • The restaurant Immigrant Food, just west of the White House on Pennsylvania Ave. NW is offering a special date night package, where 10% of the proceeds during Hispanic Heritage Month will be donated to Ayuda, an immigrant services nonprofit. The package includes a new appetizer, “Nueva Vida Shrimp Cocktail,” along with other menu items from chef Enrique Limardo, a Venezuela native. The addition to the menu goes live on Tuesday, Sept. 22.


Dan Friedell

Dan Friedell is a digital writer for WTOP. He came to the D.C. area in 2007 to work as digital editor for, and since then has worked for a number of local and national news organizations.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up