September 15 kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month, which pays tribute to Hispanic Americans who have enriched the United States. The month-long celebration “honors the cultures and contributions of both Hispanic and Latino Americans as we celebrate heritage rooted in all Latin American countries.” The praise is more than due. According to Pew Research Center, the U.S. Hispanic population hit 60.6 million last year and is only growing. And for the upcoming election, 32 million Latinos are projected to be eligible to vote, in comparison to the 27.3 million in 2016.
An inclusive history lesson
Population statistics aside, we know Hispanic people are important to the United States. However, elementary education doesn’t always reflect that. In our most recent Culturas Corner, Heroes of Color creator David Heredia put it best: “It seems to me that elementary school curriculum is the antithesis of diversity, equity and inclusion…When none of the celebrated people in history look like you, it can have a damaging mental effect on children and take decades to repair.”
Taking action, Culturas developed a worksheet for kids to get creative and learn more about important figures of Hispanic heritage. There are endless people to choose from, given this month celebrates everyone from Mexican Americans to Honduran immigrants to Afrolatinas and more. To start, we’ve highlighted Ellen Ochoa, Roberto Clemente and Sylvia Mendez.
Dr. Ellen Ochoa
Dr. Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space in 1993 during her 9-day mission on the space shuttle Discovery. A true Californian, Ochoa was born in Los Angeles, attended San Diego State University for her bachelor’s degree in physics and earned her doctorate from Stanford University. She originally joined NASA in 1988 and was the 11th director of the Johnson Space Center, its first Hispanic and second female director.
Puerto Rican baseball star Roberto Clemente spent his entire 18-season career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Though a good hitter, Clemente was a renowned outfielder and won 12 Gold Gloves over his career. During the winer, he was known to return to Puerto Rico to be with his family and offer baseball clinics to young players. After a fatal plane crash in 1972, Clemente was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming the first Latin American-born player to do so. Since 1973, the MLB annually presents the Roberto Clemente Award for exemplary sportsmanship and community service.
In 2011, President Barack Obama gave Sylvia Mendez the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The award commemorated a landmark civil rights event from over six decades ago. In the ‘40s, Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez wanted to enroll their kids at a local school in Westminster, California, but were denied (their light-skin in-laws with a European surname, who were also of Mexican heritage, were accepted). What resulted was the 1947 case Mendez vs. Westminster, which banned segregation in California public schools and laid a precedent for the national ban in Brown vs. Board of Education. Since retiring from her job as a pediatric nurse, Mendez has devoted her life to telling her family’s story. An elementary school in Berkeley, California became Sylvia Mendez Elementary School in 2018 to honor her legacy.
To print out your own Hispanic Heritage Month worksheet, download by clicking here!