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September is Hispanic Heritage Month: Here’s How to Celebrate

Photo provided by The COM Library

Every year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the United States observes Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of Americans who came from or whose ancestors came from Mexico, Spain, and the Spanish-speaking countries of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. The observation of Hispanic Americans began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week and transitioned to National Hispanic Heritage Month on Aug. 17, 1988, when it was enacted into law.

According to the Southeast Michigan Startup, there are approximately 400,000 Hispanics who live in Michigan, and more than half live in Metro Detroit. Similar to Black Americans, many Hispanic Americans migrated to Detroit to work in the automotive industry. The railroad industry and sugar beets industry were also a big draw for them. Over the years, many Hispanic Michiganders began to enter the service, construction, and landscaping industries and open their own businesses.

According to the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, there are now 20,000 Hispanic-owned businesses in the state. And over the last several years, Detroit’s Hispanic community alone has seen considerable growth in entrepreneurial ventures and job creation, with a 34% increase in small business development.

To celebrate these accomplishments and recognize the many contributions Hispanic Michiganders have made, on Sept. 1, 2021, Gov. Whitmer proclaimed September as Hispanic Heritage Month.

Here are a few ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in Southeast Michigan, all under this year’s theme of “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.”

Support Hispanic or Latino-owned Businesses

There is an abundance of restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, grocery stores, boutiques, bars, and more in Southeast Michigan that are Hispanic-owned. In Mexicantown alone, there are close to 60 you can patronage. Here is a directory you can use to filter businesses in Mexicantown, ranging from boutique shops, restaurants, cultural places, services, and lounges and bars.

Learn More About Hispanic Heritage

Take some time to hear different stories about the experiences of Hispanic Americans. StoryCorps Historias collects oral histories from Latinos in the United States. The National Park Service has an entire page dedicated to Hispanic Heritage Month that features Hispanic staff spotlights and stories about national properties of significance for Hispanic heritage. The Veterans History Project also provides a digitized collection of Hispanic veterans and stories from veterans (Experiencing War: Hispanic Americans’ Service to the Nation and Experiencing War: Hispanics in Service).

Enjoy Traditional Latin Dances

Each Hispanic country is unique and has its own traditions and cultural practices, ranging from religious practices, food, clothing, and music. Dance is another cultural practice that is spans each country, some shared and others unique. Examples of shared dances include salsa, bachata, and cumbia. An example of a unique dance is traditional Mexican dance. You can enjoy it by watching or joining Ballet Folklorico de Detroit, a traditional Mexican dance group in Detroit. Created by husband-and-wife duo Jamie Carrillo and Maria Luisa Carillo, Ballet Folklorico teaches free dance classes for youth aged 4 to 15 years old and adults aged 16 and older. They teach traditional dances, the history of different Mexican native groups, and Mexican traditional dress during class. You can see Ballet Folklorico perform at various events and festivals in Southeast Michigan throughout the year, including private events, weddings, parades, festivals, and more.

Visit a Museum Highlighting Hispanic and Latino Culture

Many museums host exhibits that highlight Hispanic and Latino artists over the month of September and October. Take time to explore those exhibitions and enjoy the artwork of Hispanic Americans. The Detroit Institute of Arts is partnering with the Mexican Consulate to celebrate Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) and is hosting a free community exhibition of ofrenda altars from Sept. 25 to Nov. 7. In Mexico and other Latin American countries, the Day of the Dead is when people celebrate the lives of their close relatives, friends, and community members who passed away. Learn more about the exhibit here. If you are unable to make it to a museum, you can also view the International Center for the Arts of the Americas’ digitized collection of 8,000 20th and 21st-century Latin American and Latino art.