It’s National Latinx (Hispanic) Heritage Month!
(September 15 - October 15)
I thought I’d look into the origin of this holiday. An internet search led me right to the government sites hosted by the Library of Congress that present a history, but also link to resources relating to the topic. The information page on the history of the celebratory month answered my first question.
The origin of the law, making the 31 day period an official celebration, lies in the establishment, in 1968 under Lyndon Johnson, of National Hispanic Heritage Week. That was expanded under the Reagan Administration in 1988, to celebrate “the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.”
A good research question might be: what factors went into the establishment of the holiday, its expansion, under Reagan? One theory I had was that it was connected to diverting criticism of its policies in Central America. That could be way off. The one thing that strikes me, again and again, about research is that learning about something generates enormous amounts of new questions, and often disrupts initial theories as incorrect.
It was fun to poke around those Library of Congress pages and discover intriguing collections and celebrations pertaining to the month. For instance the page on Exhibits and Collections has links to material in the National Archives, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Congressional Records, and more.
Government sources can be rich, but distorted by the need to maintain mythologies. For instance, a section on the Exhibits and Collections page I pointed out earlier is called “The Era of Exploration,” a phrase that had me wincing since it would serve us to leave behind notions that elide, or try to bury, the brutal nature of European conquest.
Turning to the resources at The New School Libraries, I ran a search using our general search box on our homepage simply using the word Hispanic, while keeping in mind I could use the term Latinx in another search (I chose Hispanic to ensure I got hits for items that were produced preceding the use of Latinx). Often, particularly at the first stage of research, it’s most helpful to begin a search on any given topic using the broadest, simplest keyword or words, narrowing the results, if necessary, by using the “refine” options in the left hand column.
This yielded interesting hits. If I were beginning my research into Hispanic (Latinx) culture, for instance, I might go right to a reference book we have in one of our electronic book databases (we have MANY) called The Companion to Hispanic Studies. This is in our Credo Reference collection. The publisher of this particular book is Routledge, a reputable producer of academic journals and books.
(One should always keep an eye on the origin of the material one is looking at in order to assess its authority. Does the publisher subject their articles and books through a peer review process? Who is the author of the particular item I’m looking at? Do they have scholarly credentials?)
Reference books can be wonderful starting points in research. Outside of giving overviews, their articles could inspire great leads for a research topic one wasn’t even considering. Also, they often point to authoritative sources in bibliographies.
This particular book is a collection of essays from different scholars.
The first, by the book’s editor, Catherine Davies, is an attempt to define the field of Hispanic Studies itself, and begins right off with an interrogation of the meanings of the word Hispanic. Obviously, to be thorough and historically relevant, she must discuss the Spanish Empire—its conquests of those parts of the world outside of Spain whose people now speak Spanish. But the story of who is part of Hispanic culture is more complicated than simply Spanish-speaking peoples in the Americas and elsewhere. As Davies writes:
“In Paraguay Guaraní is recognised as a co-official language; Aymara and Quechua are widely spoken in the Andean zones, Nahuatl in Mexico and Mapuche in Chile. Hispanic Studies therefore may include the study of indigenous Amerindian languages and civilisations (inevitably the Aztecs and Mayas in Mexico and the Incas in Bolivia and Peru), though these are more often included in Latin American studies programmes.”
And it gets even more complicated:
“The development of Spanish (and of Galician, Portuguese and Catalan) from Latin, and the lasting influence of Arabic and Islamic culture (notably art and architecture), especially in Andalusia, also form a part of Hispanic Studies.”
I went back to my original search hit list, and decided to refine the results to see what videos in our collection came up. I was drawn to a film that looked cool called Untold: Ellen Ochoa, the first female Hispanic astronaut. How awesome! I watched it! It’s only a few minutes long, but a highly informative little bio of this intriguing, gutsy woman.
My exploration of our resources is precisely the kind of thing we New School librarians do when we act as guides to getting our patrons started on researching a topic, or delving deeper into research that is already on a certain track. Contact us through the Research Support section of our Research webpage to schedule an in person or Zoom consultation, an email exchange, a chat, a phone call, whatever you prefer! We’re eager to help!
MLA Citation: Abruzzo, Paul. "It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month." This Led to That, The New School Libraries, 15 Sep. 2023, guides.library.newschool.edu/blog/Its-National-Hispanic-Heritage-Month.
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