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At a Hispanic Day Parade in New York, attendees wave flags from different Latin American countries, including Honduras, Guatemala, and Ecuador.
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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Honoring Diversity and Culture

Celebrate the strengths and achievements of Hispanic and Latinx communities, and gain insights on how to honor clients’ heritage during treatment.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Honoring Diversity and Culture
Victor Rivera Sink, LPC


min read


table of contents

Hispanic Heritage Month, observed from September 15th to October 15th, is a time to honor and celebrate the contributions, histories, and cultures of Hispanic and Latinx communities and peoples. 

A month-long celebration, Hispanic Heritage Month provides the opportunity to recognize the diverse experiences and achievements of individuals whose roots trace back to Mexico, Central and South America, and the Spanish-speaking nations of the Caribbean. Celebrations, educational opportunities, and cultural festivities highlight the profound impact our communities have had in shaping this nation’s social, economic, and artistic fabric. 

As a therapist, this month (and every month) is a great opportunity to learn about the great diversity of the Hispanic and Latinx communities, and utilize this knowledge to be a more versatile and culturally sensitive counselor.

A historically significant time

The choice of September 15th as the start date of Hispanic Heritage Month is intentional. The 15th marks the anniversary of independence for several Latin American countries, many of them tracing their anniversaries to a shared event: the Cry of Dolores, which rang out from Dolores, Mexico in 1810 and rallied the people to declare war and independence from Spain. From the war emerged Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua—all of which celebrate their independence on the 15th. Two days later the same year, Chile began their independence process by establishing the First Government Junta of the Kingdom of Chile. 

These shared historical connections provide a collective framework for Hispanic Heritage Month and serve as a reminder of the struggles for self-determination that various Hispanic countries have undergone; a determination that continues to be integral today.

A Guelaguetza celebration of Indigenous Oaxacan culture that was honored during Hispanic Heritage Month in Phoenix, Arizona
A Guelaguetza celebration of Indigenous Oaxacan culture that was honored during Hispanic Heritage Month in Phoenix, Arizona

Preserving traditions—and creating new celebrations

Cultural heritage is a treasure trove of traditions, customs, and practices passed down through generations. Hispanic Heritage Month provides a platform to safeguard these traditions from fading into obscurity. From Día de los Muertos to salsa dancing, traditional clothing to folk music, the month-long celebration helps to preserve and transmit the essence of Hispanic culture to future generations. 

Within the US, communities come alive with celebrations that showcase the cultural vibrancy of Hispanic and Latinx traditions. Parades, festivals, art exhibitions, music concerts, and culinary events fill the calendar. These events not only allow Hispanic individuals to connect with their roots but also invite people from all walks of life to partake in the festivities. The energy, colors, and rhythms of these celebrations create an atmosphere of unity and joy.

This preservation effort is crucial for maintaining a strong sense of identity and belonging among Hispanic and Latinx youth. Though being Hispanic or Latinx in the US may mean facing challenges—discussed later in this article—connection with one’s cultural community can have protective factors when it comes to mental health. 

Traditions and customs can help people feel pride in their culture, so that their identities can become a source of self-esteem and strength. Celebrations, new and old, build support networks, especially among young people. 

Highlighting achievements

One of the central purposes of Hispanic Heritage Month is to recognize and celebrate the outstanding achievements of Hispanic people across various fields. From politics to science, arts to sports, Hispanic and Latinx individuals have made indelible marks on American society. Leaders like Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, and Cesar Chavez, a labor rights activist, shaped the nation's legal and social landscapes. In the arts, figures like Frida Kahlo, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have made profound contributions that resonate globally. In sports, athletes like Roberto Clemente have cemented their legacy and impact in the minds of both, youth and older generations. Among younger people, new leaders such as X González continue to emerge to shape the future of this country.

Recognizing these achievements reminds people that we are an integral part of the US and paves the way for more people to follow in each other’s footsteps. These achievements instill pride and help us honor those who have paved the way with our own efforts and impact on our communities. 

Celebrating diversity

Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of diversity within diversity. Though the term "Hispanic" is used to describe a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, languages, and cultural traditions with some shared history, there are many differences between them—including opinions about the term “Hispanic.

The Latinx community in the United States consists of people from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Venezuela, and numerous other countries. Each of these groups brings its own unique customs, dialects, culinary delights, and artistic expressions to the cultural tapestry of America. The great duo, Calle 13 has a wonderful song that highlights Hispanic and Latinx diversity perfectly.

Education and awareness—including for mental health providers

This period serves as an educational platform, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of Hispanic culture and history. Schools, community centers, and cultural organizations often organize workshops, lectures, and exhibitions to inform the public about the contributions and struggles of Hispanic and Latinx communities. This effort to enhance awareness doesn’t just benefit Hispanic people; it's an opportunity for all Americans to expand their cultural horizons and embrace the multicultural essence of this nation.

How does this education and understanding help you as a therapist? Well, it’s important to know that the Hispanic or Latinx experience is not singular. With so many different cultures and backgrounds, assuming can be harmful. 

Consider asking your clients about their specific experiences and worldviews to gain understanding. It’s also important to research culture-specific information. 

Here’s some information to help you get started:

  • There are 21 Spanish-speaking countries and 10 Spanish dialects. Language is a barrier when services and assistance are both sought and provided. 
  • As of the 2020 Census, there are over 62 million Hispanic and Latinx people in the US. Over 60 percent have a Mexican background!
  • The Hispanic and Latinx skin color palette is as diverse as the dialects that are spoken. This has historical implications—and affects people’s day-to-day experiences, including discrimination rates
  • 19 percent of Hispanic and Latinx people live in poverty. 
  • Over half of Hispanic or Latinx people identify as Catholic but people also identify with different belief systems. These include other religions, such as Judaism and indigenous spiritual systems.
  • Rates for treatment and reported needs are lower among Hispanic and Latinx people, who cite language, fear, and stigma as factors for why they don’t seek support.  
  • There are some similarities within the various communities: Mental health is widely stigmatized. However, perceptions and traditions vary about mental health. One culture may attach religious context to mental illness, while another culture may simply consider them to simply be “crazy.” 
  • Diagnoses rates are on the rise within the population. Major depressive episodes, substance use disorders, serious mental illnesses, and suicidal ideations are all increasing among Hispanic and Latinx communities.  
  • People may use different verbiage to describe their difficulties: Anxiety may be called “nerves” or “stress.” Depression isn’t always understood. Trauma may not be identified as trauma at all. 

While this is a time of celebration, it's also an opportunity to acknowledge the challenges faced by Hispanic communities. Issues such as immigration, economic disparities, and language barriers continue to impact many Hispanic people in the US. Immigration and acculturation are huge determinant factors among Hispanic individuals. Families and communities that have lived in the US for generations also continue to face discrimination.

Trauma rates can be high in the Hispanic population for varying reasons, including stigma that leaves mental health issues unaddressed. One group where I’ve seen trauma is with immigrants who had to cross the US border. Families separated and detained, discriminatory treatment, and more are regular occurrences. Immigrants seeking a better life for themselves and their loved ones often risk their lives to do so, and have to face assimilation while carrying these unresolved traumas.  

The month is also a testament to the progress made and the resilience shown by these communities. By acknowledging both the challenges and the triumphs, we can honor our communities; painting a holistic picture of the Latin American experience.

Three generations of Hispanic women looking happy together as a family
Understanding heritage matters for Hispanic and Latinx communities, no matter the generation—and for providers supporting them

Honoring through understanding

Hispanic Heritage Month stands as a powerful testament to the diverse and dynamic contributions of Hispanic and Latinx communities to the United States. It is a time to honor our histories, celebrate our achievements, and preserve our varied cultural heritage. By recognizing the challenges faced and the progress achieved, we foster a deeper understanding of the Hispanic American experience. As we come together in parades, festivals, and educational events, we weave a richer, more inclusive tapestry that reflects the true essence of America's multicultural identity.

As therapists, understanding this rich experience will lead to better treatment and understanding of our clients’ lives. Not only will the clients receive better care, but we will continue to be enriched by diversity. Remember: it’s not rude to ask, and exploring cultural context can be a positive factor when building rapport! 

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About the author
Victor Rivera Sink, LPC

Victor Rivera Sink, LPC is a full-time therapist at UpLift. He has a background in directing community mental health services and providing outpatient therapy. He earned his Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling from Capella University.

Edited by

Eliana Reyes

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Katie Coughlin, LCSW

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