Hispanic Culture

What does the term Hispanic Culture refer to? Before I explain what is Hispanic or Latino culture let me define culture.

colorful housesCulture comes from the Latin culture which in turn stems from colere or to cultivate.

The term culture has different meanings but it is generally used to refer to the set of values, standards, beliefs, art, music, and practices shared by a particular group.

Now, let’s define Hispanic. Originally, this term was used to indicate a relationship to ancient Hispania, the Roman name of the Iberian Peninsula.

In modern times, and specifically in the United States, the term takes on a different meaning. It is used to denote the culture and people from Spanish-speaking, Latin American countries. These countries were formerly ruled by the Kingdom of Spain. Thus, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries are referred to as Hispanic America.

The term Hispanic was created by the US government for the 1970 Census. It was used to identify people living in the United States who are of Latin American descent.


Is Latino the same as Hispanic? In the United States, both terms are used interchangeably as both words refer to fairly the same ethnic group. Latino, short for latinoamericano (Latin American in Spanish), is used to denote people of Latin American origin. Hispanic refers to the people of Spanish-speaking countries.

Some countries, such as Brazil and Haiti, are also considered part of Latin America, even though Spanish is not their primary language. In fact, Latin America consists of countries where Romance languages (those derived from Latin) are predominantly spoken. Romance languages include Spanish, French and Portuguese.


So what is Hispanic Culture?

Hispanic or Latino culture encompasses the traditions, language, idioms, religious beliefs and practices, legends, arts, music, literature, cuisine, history, social and family values of the Hispanic people.

Some people use the terms Hispanic culture and Spanish culture interchangeably. However, they refer to two different things: Hispanic culture consists of the traditions and customs of people with Latin American roots and whose primary language is Spanish. Spanish culture encompasses the heritage and traditions of the people of Spain.


Hispanic Holidays

Latino culture is rich in holidays and traditions. Some are more traditional than others, but they all help keep our culture alive. Hispanic holidays also give us the opportunity to deepen our connection with family, friends and community. And, many would say, they give us the perfect excuse to party.

There is a wide range of Hispanic celebrations: From the religious to the patriotic, and from the popular to the unique. Some important Hispanic holidays are:


Religious Celebrations

The different "Hispanic cultures" share many things in common, including these religious observances.

nacimiento, nativity sceneNavidad (Christmas)

Like in many other cultures – Christmas is one of the most important religious celebrations among Hispanics.

A unique characteristic of a "Latino" Christmas is the prominent role of the "nacimiento" (the nativity scene).

La Semana Santa (Holy Week)

This is another important and deeply religious Hispanic holiday. The Holy Week is the last week of Lent and the week before Easter. Not surprisingly, some of the most notable celebrations of the Holy Week occur in Latin American countries, including: Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Perú.


Special Observances

Here are some popular dates celebrated by Hispanics. Some celebrations are observed only in the United States, like the Hispanic Heritage Month.

cinco de mayo

  • May 1 - Día del Trabajo

  • May 5 - Cinco de Mayo

  • May - Día de las Madres

  • Sep 15 - Oct 15 - Hispanic Heritage Month


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Hispanic Holidays - A comprehensive list of holidays celebrated by Hispanics.


Hispanic Traditions

Some of the best childhood memories I have are those of my culture's traditions. I clearly remember attending lush Quinceañera parties. I loved the pageantry of these events.

Another favorite was the Carnaval, which was celebrated in honor of Our Lady of Peace (the patron virgin of my native city of San Miguel, El Salvador). That was a huge party for sure!

colorful mexican blanketsThese are some important and popular Latino traditions:

  • The Three Kings (Los Reyes Magos)

  • El Día de los Difuntos

  • Quince Años celebration

  • Las Mañanitas (Happy Birthday song)

This is just a tiny sample of the many Hispanic holidays and traditions. You will learn about many others throughout this website.


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Hispanic Traditions - A fun look at some of the most popular Latino traditions.




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