The Foodie’s Guide to Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at Work
What do avocado toast, baked potatoes, and hot chocolate have in common? All of them are foods we enjoy today thanks to produce that originated in Latin America. But of course, the cultures and people of the diverse countries that make up Latin America have contributed so much more than just food. To give you a small taste, Latinos invented the color television, an affordable test for dengue fever, and the CAPTCHA security measure that prevents bots from spamming websites.
Celebrated from September 15 to October 15, Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) is a U.S. national celebration of the rich cultures and unique contributions of American Hispanics and Latinos. The month also coincides with many Latin American countries’ independence days, such as Costa Rica, Mexico, Guatemala, and Chile.
In the U.S., Hispanics are the fastest-growing labor force group, with the Department of Labor projecting their numbers to reach 35.9 million by 2030. Here’s how you can celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at work in a fun and inclusive way with a few simple office snacks.
But first, let’s dig into the history of the holiday and the nuances of the word “Hispanic.”
How Did Hispanic Heritage Month Start, and Who Celebrates It?
HHM began as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon B. Johnson and later stretched into Hispanic Heritage Month before being enacted into law in 1988. To give you an idea of just how many cultures are included in HHM, Spanish is the official language in about 21 countries.
As you approach this celebration, you might be wondering, what does “Hispanic” mean anyway? It can be a loaded term for many. If you want the Merriam-Webster definition, Hispanic means “of or relating to the people, speech, or culture of Spain.” But in reality, many people and governments define it differently.
Additionally, there is the term “Latino” or “Latinx” (the gender-neutral version), which means someone who is from or is a descendant of Latin America. In this way, someone from Brazil (which is located in Latin America but does not have Spanish as its official language) may identify as Latino but not Hispanic. And someone from Spain is Hispanic but not Latino.
For the purpose of this article, we will include the cultures and people of Hispanic and Latin American countries in these HHM office celebration ideas.
Latinx-Owned Office Snacks to Enjoy
Food is a cornerstone of any culture–and that’s especially true for Hispanics. After all, Lima, Peru, is known as the Culinary Capital of Latin America (some would even say the world!). If you’re looking for office drinks and snacks to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, look no further than these Latinx-owned brands, all of which can be found and ordered on Crafty.
Siete Foods was founded by Mexican-American brother and sister Veronica and Miguel Garza and their mother, Aida Garza. When Veronica was diagnosed with autoimmune conditions that required her to do a low-inflammation diet, she set out to create grain-free tortillas so she could enjoy this Mexican staple and preserve her family’s beloved traditions.
These grain-free Mexican Wedding cookies from Siete Foods will be a sweet hit among your staff. Despite the name, these cookies (also known as “polvorones”) are enjoyed in Mexico and other countries year-round, though they’re particularly popular during the Christmas season.
They’re buttery and dense, with a touch of cinnamon, and covered in powdered sugar you’ll enjoy licking off your fingers.
Barnana Plantain Chips
Plantain chips are popular snacks in many Latin American countries, including Cuba (where they’re known as “mariquitas”), the Dominican Republic (“tostones”), and Peru (“chifles”). Closely related to the banana, plantains are large, starchy fruits that grow in the tropics and are cooked before eating.
The Barnana brand was co-founded by Brazilian native Caue Suplicy as a way to share with the world his favorite childhood snack from Brazil: dehydrated bananas. (Barnana started by selling its chewy banana bites and later expanded to crunchy plantain chips.) The company upcycles its bananas and plantains from small organic farms in the Amazon, meaning its food is made from fruits that would otherwise have been thrown away.
Fillo's Walking Tamales
Tamales are a savory dish made from corn masa dough stuffed with fillings such as meat, veggies, and cheese and are said to have been created by the Aztecs or Mayans. Though they are one of the most popular Mexican dishes, they can be found in many other Latin American countries too.
When founding Fillo’s Walking Tamales, brothers Daniel and Antonio Caballero drew inspiration from their childhood enjoying sofrito (veggies, spices, and herbs cooked in olive oil) made by their Cuban father. Now, they’re hoping to keep Latin American traditions alive through their food company.
As part of your HHM celebrations, enjoy the Bean Salsa Roja tamal, which is packed with pintos (and plant protein!) and vegan-friendly.
Casa Humilde Beer
What’s a celebration without some good drinks? Mexican-American brothers Javier and Jose Lopez founded Casa Humilde Cerveceria to brew craft beer that showcases Latin ingredients.
For HHM, why not try their special Viva La Frida cerveza? It was created in collaboration with the National Museum of Mexican Art and The Chicago Brewseum and is described as "bright and crisp with a beautiful red hue from the hibiscus." Yum!
Other Ideas to Keep Your Hispanic Heritage Month Office Celebrations Inclusive:
Survey your team members
Ahead of the celebrations, ask all of your team members what they’d like to see and what their availability is like. You can do this during an all-hands meeting or via email or an online survey. Being inclusive means making sure everyone has an opportunity to voice their opinions if they’d like to.
Invite Hispanic and Latino team members to be involved and spotlighted
You’re celebrating your Hispanic and Latin American coworkers, so it makes sense to invite them to participate in the planning and events. Perhaps they’ll want to share a dish that’s been passed down in their family or play a traditional song from their native country. However, if they don’t feel up to it, they shouldn’t be pressured to partake.
Additionally, this is a great time to showcase the accomplishments of your Latinx team members and to highlight any DEI updates you may have in your company.
Be open and curious about what you don’t know
When it comes to DEI holidays, it’s common for leaders to feel nervous about saying the wrong thing or coming across as insensitive. Don’t let the fear of making a mistake stop you from celebrating HHM. Thankfully, so many answers can be found via a simple Google search. To help you, here are some reliable sources to learn more about Hispanic and Latino culture:
- HHM Briefing Book from The Hispanic Star
- National Hispanic Heritage Month government website
- HHM resources from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Latino
If you’re still unsure, just ask! Acknowledge that you don’t know much about a particular culture, express your desire to learn more about and celebrate it, and then ask your Latino team members for their feedback. This is also a fantastic opportunity to tap into your DEI team and Latinx ERGs (and if you don’t have either of those, it’s an ideal time to start one!).
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