Ideas for Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in the Workplace

Written by
Connie Du
Connie Du

Fall is the best season, don’t you think? 🍂

Along with the changing leaves, crisp air, and pumpkin spice everything, the period between September 15 to October 15 is also Hispanic Heritage Month!

We’re big champions of the idea that employees should be able to bring their whole selves to work, and that includes acknowledging and celebrating their ethnic, racial, and cultural backgrounds.

So, let’s talk about Hispanic Heritage Month and what your workplace can do to recognize Hispanic/Latinx-Americans and their cultures!

What is Hispanic Heritage Month?

During the 1960s and through the peak of the civil rights movement, the United States was becoming ever more aware of the diversity of identities in its communities.

National Hispanic Heritage Month began as a commemorative week beginning on September 15, in 1968, under California Congressman George E. Brown. Brown represented East Los Angeles and a large part of the San Gabriel Valley, two regions that are historically heavily populated by the Hispanic and Latinx communities. President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the official presidential proclamation of Hispanic Heritage Week soon after.

Why September 15? This date was chosen because it coincides with the Independence Day celebrations of five Central American nations—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico also celebrates its independence from Spain on September 16, 1810.

What a month for revolution! 😄

Later in 1989, Hispanic Heritage Week was officially expanded to Hispanic Heritage Month by George H.W. Bush, who’d also sponsored the original 1968 bill.

“The rich ethnic heritage of Hispanic Americans gives us cause to celebrate because it is a proud and colorful portion of our Nation's heritage.”
President George H.W. Bush

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in the workplace

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As we mention in our Black History Month article, race in the workplace can be a touchy subject! Many organizations try to be “colorblind” in a misguided attempt at establishing equality.

In fact, when companies downplay demographic differences, this actually increases underrepresented employees’ perception of bias from their white colleagues and reduces engagement in their work. 😬

Your employees should be able to openly discuss, embrace, and be proud of their cultural and ethnic backgrounds. After all, people of Hispanic descent make up 18% of the U.S. population. It’s about time we acknowledge the rich histories of our colleagues. Embrace your differences, and be open to learning!

That being said, here are a few other best practices to keep in mind as you celebrate cultural occasions in the workplace:

  • Get community input: If you have Hispanic/Latinx employees, be sure to get them involved! You’re celebrating them, after all! This is a great time to talk about family history, personal experiences, and learning opportunities.

  • Don’t overburden: On the flip side, don’t assume that just because someone is Hispanic/Latinx, that they’d want to take on the work to plan an event for the organization. That places the burden of responsibility on them, and if they’re a visible minority at your workplace, they might feel tokenized about their role at your workplace—especially if this initiative is a new thing at your company. Remember to acknowledge those who do choose to participate by recognizing them publicly.

  • Make it a party: In the spirit of inclusivity, you should encourage everyone at your company to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month! Chances are, your fellow team members will appreciate and welcome your efforts. In a survey done by Glassdoor, 57% of respondents believe their employers could be doing more to increase diversity and inclusion. And if you’re a company that intends to grow, two-thirds (67%) of active and passive job seekers consider a diverse workforce to be an important factor in evaluating companies to work for.

Hispanic Heritage Month celebration ideas!

Education

Arrange a speaker or presentation

Contacting your local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce would be a great place to start, and they’ll have a lot of connections to the community that you can learn from.

For more general education, we love Paradigm’s Managing Unconscious Bias Workshop. It’s a great learning opportunity and always prompts thoughtful discussion around gender, race, and identity in the workplace.

Do some reading

Reading nonfiction or fiction is an excellent way to understand new perspectives, and there are so many beautiful books by Hispanic and Latinx authors out there. Why not gather a group of colleagues and start a book club? Here’s just a few that we crowdsourced from the Bonusly community!

Fiction

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Nonfiction

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa
The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú
The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography by MirIam Pawel 
Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera 
Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario

Watch a movie or documentary

Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Board hosted a watch party of Under The Same Moon, a 2007 film by Mexican director Patricia Riggen.

This was the third watch party we hosted in 2020 and the format presents an opportunity to bond as a team while consuming media by underrepresented identities that we might not normally take in. Ask your team: are there any documentaries or movies about the Hispanic/Latinx-American experience that they’re itching to see?

Service

Volunteer

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Volunteering with local nonprofits and charities is an excellent way to help the community, bond with your team members, and even inspire engagement and motivation in the workplace!

Lending your support as an organization is uniquely powerful because you can bring a lot of helping hands to a project, but you can also form corporate partnerships and create lasting relationships by establishing internship, apprenticeship, or recruiting programs. Once again, reaching out to your Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to connect to local businesses and entrepreneurs, to see how you can help.

Donate

Pool your resources together or arrange a fundraiser to support racial justice. Sometimes, the gift of money is the most impactful thing you can give to a charity, especially when it comes to education or legal funds.

Check out Voto Latino, a Latinx civics organization that hopes to boost Latino civil engagement in the U.S., and RAICES, an organization dedicated to providing legal services to both documented and undocumented refugees and immigrants.

Activities

Eat

Okay, we have to recognize the incredible cuisine that comes from Latin America! 🤤

At Bonusly, we’ll be doing a pozole cook-along hosted by some of our colleagues. Food is a great way of experiencing another culture, and eating together is one of our favorite ways to bond as a team.

Collaborate

Take it a step further by establishing a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee at your organization. This act shows that your company is dedicated to making your team environment a better place, and encourages a free-flowing of ideas and feedback between employees and leadership.

Recognize

We firmly believe that employee recognition is crucial to building inclusive workplaces.

When Culture Amp and Paradigm surveyed over 7,000 individuals from 35 organizations, they found that a sense of belonging was the single metric that was consistently and universally tied to workplace commitment, motivation, pride and recommendation.

Plus, did you know that the correlation between belonging and engagement was stronger for underrepresented groups?

Teams with inclusive cultures outperform their peers by a staggering 80%, but only about 11% of organizations can say that they have truly inclusive environments. There is always room to improve.

One way to reach those metrics is to ensure that more people are recognized, which often means you also have to diversify the parties responsible for giving recognition. The simple act of implementing 360-degree and peer recognition at your workplace can make a big difference in your inclusion metrics.

Next steps

There’s still time to plan a fun event for your organization!

Has this post sparked inspiration? Tell us your ideas in the comments below, or check out these additional resources: 10 Diversity & Inclusion Statistics That Will Change How You Do Business, Seven Team Building Activities That Actually Build Stronger Teams, Why Employee Recognition is Crucial to Inclusion.

Originally published on September 30, 2020 → Last updated October 2, 2020

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Connie Du

Connie is on the marketing team at Bonusly and is dedicated to making workdays a little brighter for everyone. ☀️She loves writing, her cats, and a well-placed emoji.

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