Photo by Stéphan Valentin on Unsplash

The U.S. is known for being a big melting pot due to its rich cultural diversity. It is estimated that 18 percent of U.S. Americans have an Hispanic or Latino heritage and are an integral part of the economic and social base of the country. As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, here is what you need to know:

The Origins: Hispanic Heritage week was established by Congress in September of 1968 during the height of the Civil Rights Movement to acknowledge the contributions and celebrate the cultures of U.S. Americans with Mexican, Caribbean, Spanish, Central and South American heritage. Twenty years later the duration of the celebration expanded to a full month, from September 15th to October 15th, to coincide with the indepence days of various Latin American countries.

The difference between Latino, Hispanics and Brazilians: It is important to note the differences between Hispanics and Latinos as many think it’s one and the same. According to Harvard University, the term Hispanic means having a Spanish ancestry, whereas, the term Latino groups together those with Spanish ancestry and indigenous roots. Brazilians trace their European ancestry to the Portuguese, which is part of the lusophone community, which includes people with cultural or linguistic links to Portugal. Research shows that Brazilians don’t identify as Latinos and prefer to be called “Brazilian” or “South American.”

Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the U.S. and worldwide: The U.S. is home to millions of people from countries across the globe who speak different native tongues. However, the most popular non-English language spoken in the U.S. is Spanish, accounting for approximately 40.6 million speakers. By 2050, the U.S. is predicted to have the highest Spanish-speaking population worldwide with 132.8 million speakers. Spanish is also the second most widely spoken language in the world, following Chinese. Consider learning one new Spanish word a day as an amazing way to honor Hispanic Heritage month, and boost your career success both domestically and abroad.

Spanish-language music rules the radio: In the past decade many Hispanic and Latino artists have gained popularity due to the music’s catchy beat, powerful lyrics and sensual rhythms. It’s no coincidence that many influential Hispanic and Latino artists have become globally recognized, just like Piso 21, Greicy, Reik and Jesse & Joy.

The cultures and traditions from Hispanic and Latino countries are woven into the fabric of the U.S. – beyond our beloved tacos and tequila, and on into the vibrant art, architecture, music, language and literature.

This year, consider  celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by joining an Independence Day celebration or improving your Spanish language proficiency. However you engage, continue to increase your knowledge of the many incredible contributions Hispanics make to the U.S. And don’t forget to enjoy your favorite Spanish dish too!


Sharon Schweitzer and Sophie Echeverry co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre and the Intercultural Communication Institute, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.

Sophie Echeverry is the corporate marketing manager and event coordinator at Access to Culture. Born and raised in Colombia, she’s a 2018 graduate with a B.B.A. in International Business and Marketing from Hult International Business School in San Francisco, CA. Connect with her on LinkedIn.