Honoring Hispanic Heritage Month 2023

Rowan University Hispanic Heritage Month 2023

Image Alternative Text: Depicted is the United States Department of State Hispanic Heritage Month 2023 image. The image reads, "Hispanic Heritage Month" and "Todos Somos, Somos Uno (We Are All, We Are One)" in pink script. Beside this text is an intricate graphic depicting flags. The background of the image is beige. The image is via the State Department.


Originally written in September 2020 (with additions and updates since that time) by:

Gabby McAllaster, Ph.D. Candidate in Education and Doctoral Graduate Coordinator, Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI); Doctor of Philosophy in Education Graduate, Class of 2023 at Rowan University; and

Patricia Fortunato, Content and Program Manager, Clinical Research and Grants, NeuroMusculoskeletal Institute (NMI); and Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Training and Content Developer, Department of Psychiatry, Rowan–Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine (Rowan–Virtua SOM) (fortun83@rowan.edu)


Interested in contributing to the Rowan University DEI website/blog and/or social media? Please complete the following brief interest form and share with student groups and colleagues across all Rowan colleges and schools: go.rowan.edu/deicontent


Hispanic Heritage Month is a national celebration commemorated from September 15 to October 15 to honor the independence anniversaries of several Latin American countries—the history, culture, and influence of past generations. The month-long celebration is an opportunity to dispel stigma and fear through education about multiculturalism and intersectionalities, and the contributions of Hispanic/Latino/a/x/e communities. September 15 marks the independence anniversary of five countries: Costa Rica, El Savador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. This is followed by Mexico's Independence Day on September 16, and Chile's on September 18.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time of celebration, education, and critical reflection.

Throughout this observance and year-round, Rowan University recognizes and celebrates all Hispanic Americans, Latinos, Latinas, and Latinx/Latine-identifying people.


Terms and Language Guidance for Continued Learning

Many scholars and activists have been critical of terms such as "Hispanic" that have been historically used by the U.S. government to describe the community of people. Many argue that this term homogenizes a diverse group of people and represents colonization. As such, some people have opted to use "Chicanx, Xicana/o, and Xicanx" and "Latino/a/x/e" to self-identify.


  • Chicano: Chicano is a chosen identity of some Mexican Americans in the U.S. Variations of the term include Chicanx, Xicana/o, and Xicanx, which replace the "ch" with the letter "x" as a way of symbolically emphasizing Indigenous ancestry while rejecting Western colonization. Chicano or Xicano are sometimes used interchangeably with Mexican American and both names exist as chosen identities within the Mexican American community in the U.S.
  • Hispanic: A Hispanic person is a person who lives in or comes from a Spanish-speaking country, or whose ancestors came from a Spanish-speaking country.
  • Latino/a/x/e: A Latino/a/x/e person is a person of Latin American descent. Latino (males), Latina (females), and Latinx/e (gender neutral) are recommended, but individual preferences are common.


The term "Latinx" is popular amongst academic and activist spaces, with an attempt to create new perspectives and gender-neutral language; however, scholars such as Dr. Cristobal Salinas have been critical of the term. Dr. Salinas' research inquires the origins of the word and perspectives of how Latino/a/x/e individuals relate to, identify, and understand the term Latinx.

As such, it is important that we deconstruct and understand the terms we use, as well as respect individual choices of how others self-identify. The term Latino/a/x/e throughout this essay is used as an umbrella term to describe the community of people of Latin American descent, with further acknowledgement of the diversity of the community.


Brief History and Civil Rights Movements

  • The Mexican Revolution and the U.S.: Learn about this pivotal time in history via the Library of Congress (LOC). On the LOC website, an interactive map depicts the progression of events from the Tragic Ten Days in Mexico City and revolt that began on February 9, 1913.
  • Maria Moreno: Learn about the first woman farmworker hired as a union representative, via the Counter.
  • The Brown Berets: Learn about the Brown Berets, who fought for solutions to disparities that affected the Mexican American and Chicanx barrios of Los Angeles' Eastside neighborhoods, including and not limited to access to health care, via the Los Angeles Conservancy.
  • Jovita Idár: Learn about Idár, a Mexican American journalist who fought to dismantle racism through her writing at the newspaper La Crónica, via the National Women's History Movement.
  • Méndez et al vs. Westminster et al: This 1947 lawsuit helped end segregation in schools for Latino/a/x/e children. Learn more via the United States Courts.
  • Terms: A brief history of the words "Hispanic," "Latino," and "Latinx" are available via Remezcla.
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program: DACA allowed two-year relief from deportation and work permits for immigrants who are undocumented and living in the U.S. prior to 16 years of age. The DACA program increased postsecondary opportunities for many youth in the U.S. On September 13, 2023, the Southern District of Texas deemed DACA unlawful and per the federal judge's order, initial (first-time) DACA applicants continue to be blocked and unprocessed. Those who have DACA as of July 16, 2021, or whose DACA lapsed for less than one year, will continue to be able to apply for renewal. DACA updates will be provided in real time via the National Immigration Law Center.
  • The Chicanx Civil Rights Movement: This movement focused on Mexican American civil rights. Learn more via the National LOC.


Creating Inclusive Environments for the Latino/a/x/e Community

The Latino/a/x/e community is the largest ethnic group in the U.S. today, who are often homogenized in society. Here are some suggestions towards creating more equitable and inclusive environments for the Latino/a/x/e community:


Acknowledge diversity in the Latino/a/x/e community. The Latino/a/x/e community is a racially diverse, pan-ethnic identity. Individuals within the community can have any combination of Indigenous, African, and European ancestry. Some individuals may also have Asian and African roots throughout the Caribbean and South America. The Latino/a/x/e groups with the largest representation in the United States include Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, however, this population has gradually declined since 2008, with increased immigration from other Latin American countries, including Cubans, Brazilians, Colombians, Dominicans, Guatemalans, and Salvadorans.

Furthermore, the Latino/a/x/e community is diverse in other characteristics such as generational status, immigration status, culture, language, and socioeconomic status. As such, it is important to not make assumptions or generalizations about individuals and their varying lived experiences.


Seek to educate yourself and others. Children, adolescents, and young adults should have access to accurate and inclusive histories, taught by diverse educators. We should all seek to learn more about the U.S.' history of immigration, and combat uninformed stereotypes and harmful misperceptions. With personal education, we can each advocate towards transformation of infrastructures to better serve and support Latino/a/x/e communities, and rethink approaches to responding to the needs of this diverse population.


Take action towards equity and inclusion for migrants and immigrants including those experiencing undocumentation. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program, signed by former President Obama in 2012, allowed two-year relief from deportation and work permits for immigrants who are undocumented and living in the U.S. prior to 16 years of age. The DACA program increased postsecondary opportunities for many youth in the U.S., yet individuals in the DACA program were denied eligibility for federal financial aid, creating financial barriers to higher education.

Since 2017, the DACA program has been under threat. In July 2020, a Supreme Court decision of 5–4 voted for the DACA program to remain. However, the ultimate fate of DACA remains uncertain. As mentioned prior, on September 13, 2023, the Southern District of Texas deemed DACA unlawful and per the federal judge's order, initial (first-time) DACA applicants continue to be blocked and unprocessed. Those who have DACA as of July 16, 2021, or whose DACA lapsed for less than one year, will continue to be able to apply for renewal.

It is important that we use our varying privileges, such as voting, to critically understand political issues and advocate for equitable access to education and health care for migrants and immigrants including those experiencing undocumentation.


Vote. To register to vote, please visit: vote.org/register-to-vote


Emergency medicine (EM) health care professionals, and all health care professionals, can participate in Vot–ER, a nonpartisan civic engagement program that provides free multilingual educational resources for hospitals, outpatient clinical care settings, medical schools, and other facilities and educational settings. The program's vision is driven by the vision of "healthy communities powered by inclusive democracy," ultimately partnering with more than 500 hospitals and clinics to date and helping thousands of patients register and prepare to vote. Learn more at vot-er.org.


Latino/a/x/e Affinity Groups

  • Rowan United Latino Association provides a space for people of different cultural backgrounds to celebrate their culture while learning about others. The group also works to educate others about issues that the Latino/a/x/e community experiences.
  • Latinas Uprising is a community for new and aspiring attorneys seeking to excel in the legal field.
  • Nalgona Positivity Pride is a body-positive organization dedicated to visibility and educational content for Black, Indigenous, communities of color.