What Does Hispanic Heritage Month Mean to Me?

Abra Gist
August 31, 2023

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and Dieciséis de Septiembre

On September 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest, rang the church bells in the town of Dolores, Mexico, calling for rebellion against Spanish rule. This momentous event, known as the Grito de Dolores, ignited the Mexican War of Independence, leading to Mexico's eventual liberation from Spanish colonial rule in 1821.

Every year, from September 15th to October 15th, the United States celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, a time dedicated to recognizing and honoring the significant contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the nation's history, culture, and society. 

This month-long celebration coincides with the commemoration of Dieciséis de Septiembre, or Mexican Independence Day, a pivotal event that marks the beginning of Mexico's fight for independence from Spanish colonial rule. 

Cultural Significance and Gritos de Libertad

Every year, Hispanic Heritage Month and Dieciséis de Septiembre is an opportunity to acknowledge the rich cultural diversity brought to the United States by Hispanic and Latino communities. From food and music to art and literature, their contributions have greatly enriched American society. The month also emphasizes the need to continue fostering inclusivity and understanding among all communities.

Mexican Independence Day is a source of immense pride for Mexicans and Mexican-Americans alike. It symbolizes the spirit of unity, resilience, and patriotism, showcasing the strength of a nation that fought for its freedom against all odds.

Viewpoint from Abroad: An International Virtual Teacher Shares Her Experience

Allison Rodriguez, Proximity Learning Virtual Spanish Teacher, lives and teaches from Mexico. She is so excited to share her and her family’s experiences with Mexico’s observance of Dieciséis de Septiembre and its connections to Hispanic culture. She describes how the US observance of Hispanic Heritage Month connects to this very important Mexican holiday.

What significance does Dieciséis de Septiembre (Mexican Independence Day)  hold for you and your family? How have you seen this day celebrated abroad?

I have lived in Aguascalientes, Mexico for 13 years. Three of my four children were born here so they learned Spanish and English at the same time. They feel like the 16 de septiembre is their 4th of July in a sense. They have participated in school festivals whether it be dancing or participating in things like the town fair selling traditional Mexican food. 

The holiday is actually celebrated on the night of the 15th and at midnight you participate in a “grito”. The 16th is a national holiday and typically with my husband’s family we have a big celebration on the evening of the 15th.

What traditional Mexican foods or drinks are commonly enjoyed during the celebrations? How do they tie into the cultural significance of the day?

When we get together to celebrate of course we decorate everything in the colors of the Mexican flag red, white and green. The typical foods are tamales, pozole, flautas, duros preparadas, elotes and so on. We also typically drink Aguas frescas or prepared drinks. I’m not really sure if the food actually ties specifically into the day or if it is just more of eating the traditional foods of Mexico, such as when we eat hamburgers and hotdogs for the 4th of July in the States. 

Could you share a famous Mexican cultural icon or symbol that represents Dieciséis de Septiembre? What does it symbolize? 

On this day in 1810 Miguel Hidalgo declared independence from Spain. This is not the actual day Mexico became independent but it is when it all started with Miguel Hidalgo’s speech that unified Mexico. At 12 p.m. midnight on the 15th/16th you shout the gritos: "¡Viva México!" "¡Viva la independencia!” – which translates to: "Long live Mexico! Long live our independence!“

This is very traditional! You will see a lot of schools depicting this scene from history with Miguel Hidalgo reenacting his grito that evening in plays and celebrations. 

How has the observance of Dieciséis de Septiembre evolved over time, both in Mexico and in Mexican diaspora communities?

Before the celebrations were much more simple, but now there are a lot of parties held in government squares complete with fireworks, parades, mariachis, and so forth. At schools, they always have parties for the children, present dances, or serve special food to celebrate the day. All of the people are very patriotic and wear the colors of the Mexican flag or wear traditional clothing from that historical time. 

Can you share a significant figure from Hispanic history who has inspired you? How did they make an impact?

I always felt very inspired by the artist Frida Kahlo. She was a feminist before the feminist movement. She depicted the real Mexico and the real indigenous people. She made an impact on art and the world recognized Mexico for producing such a wonderful painter.

How has Hispanic culture influenced art, music, and literature globally?

Hispanic culture has introduced musical styles including mariachi, salsa, cumbias, Tejano, and so on. Artists such as Frida Kahlo gave another view of Mexico, which is very important - it is not all drugs and violent headlines here. Living abroad helps me and my family to experience the culture and a different viewpoint. There are real down-to-earth people, beautiful people working and loving their families and culture. I think Hispanic art depicts the beauty of another world. And that’s why it’s so popular to this day. 

In what ways can people of different backgrounds better appreciate and celebrate Hispanic heritage?

I think that we can definitely look at different foods as a way to celebrate and appreciate Hispanic heritage. We can appreciate different tastes that are not viewed as “American.” Whether it be tamales from Mexico or paella from Spain. Hispanics in my personal opinion are very family-centered. Family is above all else. If there is a crisis or if someone needs help, you stop and help because they are your family. There are no questions asked. I think Americans are not that easily persuaded in times like those. I really appreciate that family is held in such high regard here. 

What role has Hispanic heritage played in shaping the cultural diversity of your country or community?

Living in Mexico, everything!! Where I lived in West Virginia, there was not a big Hispanic population. So I have really enjoyed my time here. I will attach some pictures of my family at school festivals and family celebrations we have had at our house – it’s been so amazing to live and experience the culture here with my husband and children. 

Expand your students’ horizons by expanding courses with Proximity Learning.

about the author
Abra Gist

Abra Gist is a writer and educator in Austin, Texas with over a decade of experience in the education sector. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in English at The University of Texas. She is currently an MFA Creative Writing Candidate at Texas State University. She loves exploring nature, practicing and teaching yoga, and sharing her industry knowledge for Proximity Learning.

Ready To Learn More?

Whether you have a question about our solutions or are interested in our services, don't hesitate to reach out to us here. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.