Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 through October 15



September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. According to the U.S. Census Bureau about 41 million people or 14% of the total population of the United States is of Hispanic origin. In California about one third of the population is Latino.


Integrating the study various cultures in the curriculum not only develops the cultural literacy of students, it makes the study of history, literature, and the arts richer, more authentic, and more engaging for students.  This study provides a great counterpoint to the September celebration of Native American Day. Hispanic American-culture is intertwined with American Indian culture and many Latinos trace their cultural roots to the indigenous peoples of the Americas.


Following are a small selection of lessons and resources to support the study of Hispanic Heritage Month and the study of the History-Social Science Content Standards.

Margaret ‘Peg’ Hill, Ph.D.

Director, SCORE H-SS



Elementary and Middle School


Place Names

Many U.S. and California place names are Spanish in origin. Post a large map of the U.S. or California and ask students to locate, tag on the map, and translate the following states and cities using an online Spanish-English dictionary such as Yahooligans http://yahooligans.yahoo.com/reference/dict_en_es/ or a biographical dictionary: Standard 4.1.4, 4.1.5, 3.1


Arizona, Colorado, Florida, and Montana.


Mesa, Arizona; El Paso, San Antonio, Texas; Pueblo, Colorado; Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Bernardino, Sacramento, San Rafael, Alta Loma, La Mesa, San Gabriel, Santa Ana, San Pedro, Santa Barbara, Sierra Madre, Escondido, Paso Robles, Chico, Chula Vista, Chino, Palomar, Palo Alto, Ventura, Vista, El Centro, California; and Santa Fe, New Mexico.


            San Gabriel, Sacramento, Colorado, Columbia,

            Bodies of Water:

            Pacific Ocean


Notable Hispanic Americans


Use these brief biographies to create a montage of Hispanic achievement in various areas of endeavor such as explorers, writers, artists, or settlers to select people of interest for further research and reading. For longer more advanced online biographies see http://www.gale.com/free_resources/chh/bio/  Standards 1.5.1, 2.5, 3.3, 4.2 (most)


Celebrate Hispanic Heritage


This Scholastic site has an easy-to-navigate section for the social studies classroom on Hispanic History in the Americas, a section with six biographies of prominent Latino-Americans today and another with historical biographies. Standards 1.5.2 and 3.3.1  


Lessons for Hispanic Heritage Month


This Education World site has activities that involve students in creating glossaries, reading and writing folktales, growing foods popular in Hispanic cultures, writing letters to members of the Hispanic Caucus in Congress, making population cartograms, and using literature to support students in creating bio poems and learning games. Standards 1.5.1, 2.5, and 3.3


An Interactive Study Environment on Spanish Exploration

and Colonization of "Alta California" 1774-1776


This is a beautifully laid out bilingual site on Spanish exploration and colonization in California. It has primary documents such as diary and letter selections from Anza, Father Graces, and Font. A section with historical background puts the documents in context for easier understanding. Standard 4.2.2, 4.2.3, 5.2.2 and 5.2.4


Spanish Exploration and Conquest of Native America


Here is the conquest of America from a Native American perspective. Cabeza de Vaca's eight years in North America, starting in 1528, set the stage for Hernando de Soto to lead an army of settlers from Havana, Spain's "Ellis Island," into America in the 1540's. This is an extensive site with maps and primary source materials. It was written by Donald E. Sheppard and has received numerous awards including the American anthropology and History Award. Standards 5.2.2, 5.3.1, 5.3.4, 7.7.3, and 7.11.2


Spanish Missions of California


Take a virtual tour of a real Spanish Mission, and learn why they were an important part of California's history. Read about the everyday life of those who lived and worked here: the priests, the soldiers, and the native people. There's even a recipe for pozole, a common food served during those times. This site is rich with facts, photographs, maps, and audio tour guide readings. Need help with unfamiliar words? Check the hyperlinked glossary. Standards 3.3.1, 4.2.0, 4.2.3, 4.2.4, 4.2.5, 4.2.6, and 5.4.5


Spanish Colonial Frontier: Missions, Presidios, Pueblos


California was a colonial province of the Spanish empire during the years 1769 to 1821. Located on the northern frontier of New Spain, California was far removed from the cosmopolitan center of the empire. The central institutions of Spanish California were the Franciscan missions founded along the coast from San Diego to San Francisco. Presidios provided limited military protection while pueblos emerged as fledgling civilian centers. Standards 3.3.1, 4.2.0, 4.2.3, 4.2.4, 4.2.5, 4.2.6, and 5.4.5


Californio to American: A Study in Cultural Change


This "Teaching with Historic Places" activity uses the Los Alamitos Ranch in Long Beach to trace history in southern California from Spanish land grant times, through the Mexican period to modern day. Examine primary sources including land grant maps, drawings of the buildings, aerial photos of the region today, and pictures of the interior of the house as furnished by the most recent occupants. Imagine what life at Los Alamitos would have been like during different eras. Standards 4.2.5, 4.2.8, 5.4.6 and 8.8.5


Missions and Moral Judgment


The mission is a topic that permeates the history of Spanish America. The sixteenth-century monks who undertook the spiritual conquest of their Spain's new lands by baptizing hundreds of thousands but also witnessed the rapid decline in native population. The seventeenth-century evangelists, less assured about the sincerity of native conversion, spent their lives on remote frontiers working to Christianize and westernize the Indians. The success with which they segregated their charges from outsiders was their undoing when the church lost power in later centuries. Missions differed across the Spanish Borderlands, as they differed throughout the Americas, and that variety was a function of time, place, and above all, the people involved. Standards 7.11.2 and 8.8.5


Spanish Exploration and Conquest of Native America


Hernando de Soto explored America for a seaway to China in order to trade Spain's New World gold. He followed trails that we use as highways. Spain's records describe Native Americans along those trails at places that are cities again today. Conquest Trails in Fourteen States are presented here. The site, written by Dr. Lawrence A. Clayton from the University of Alabama, paints a very negative picture of the Spanish. Standards 5.2.1, 5.2.2, 5.3.1, 7.7.3, and 7.11.1


Spanish Colonization of the Americas


This encyclopedia-type article hot-links to further information. This article looks at Spanish colonies in the Caribbean, South America, Central America and North America. It then looks at the New World trade, and the northern extent of Spanish influence. Standards 5.2.2, 5.2.3 and 7.11.3


Gran Quivira: A Blending of Cultures in a Pueblo Indian Village


Learn about the Puebloan Indians before, during and after Spanish contact by examining the ruins of three villages in the Salinas Basin in central New Mexico that were home to Indian people from 1000 to the 1600s. Spain established missions throughout the Salinas basin in an attempt to Christianize and bring the roughly 10,000 Indian people living there into Spanish society. The mission system did not survive long in the Salinas basin, and by the late 1670s, the inhabitants of this once thriving area were all but gone. What happened? What can we learn about the people from studying the archaeology. Standards 5.3.1, 5.3.2 and 7.11.2


San Antonio Missions: Spanish Influence in Texas


Mission San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo, was only one of a chain of missions strung along the San Antonio River. Established between 1718 and 1731, these missions were built not only to spread the faith of the conquistadors, but also to serve multiple foreign policy objectives for the Spanish government. Explore this group of 18th-century missions in modern San Antonio, Texas, to learn about Spanish influence on native peoples and the patterns of Spanish and then Mexican-American culture in the Southwest. Standard 5.8.5 and 8.8.5


Explorers of North America


This site is divided into six eras with hot-linked information to explorers in North America for each era. There is also a map for each of the eras but it is larger that the screen for must be printed at 50% or less. Standards 5.2.1, 5.2.3, 5.2.4, 7.11.1, and 7.11.2


Spanish America: Spanish Colonization in the North


This is a brief summary of the Spanish colonial experience in North America. It links to maps and a glossary. It has embedded hotlinks to more information on key North American explorers. Standards 5.2.2, 5.4.5, 5.85, and 8.8.5


Spanish Treasure Fleets of 1715 and 1733: Disasters Strike at Sea


From the mid 16th to the mid 18th century, heavily-armed Spanish fleets plied the waters between Spain and the Americas transporting massive amounts of New World treasure. Through this treasure fleet system, Spain created a mighty New World empire and became the most powerful nation in Europe. The fleets' return voyage—when the ships were laden with silver, gold, gemstones, tobacco, exotic spices, and indigo—was the most dangerous.  Standard 7.11.3


U.S. History Maps


This list of clear maps with in-depth annotations provides a summary of American history from colonial to modern times.


Middle and High School


Hispano Ranchos of Northern New Mexico: Continuity and Change


Understand the ways in which ranchos in northern New Mexico provide evidence of the ability of Hispano culture to adapt to new influences while still maintaining its traditional character.  Standard 8.8.5


Hispanic Heritage Month


This History Channel Site has a photo contest for high school students, film clips online, and teaching materials to use with History Channel videos.


Guide to Latin Music


Organized by country, this site by Caravan Music has descriptions of the Latino musicians and music. Caution students that this links to sites to purchase the music. 


Hispanic Reading Room


This section of the Library of Congress site features resources for students researching topics about the history of Spanish and Portuguese activities and influences in America.  


Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo


Text of the treaty by which the United States gained not only Texas but New Mexico and Upper California. Through this treaty, approximately 78,000 residents of these lands became American citizens.  Standard 8.8.6


Mexican American (Chicano) Civil Rights Movement


This set of links by the Las Culturas project provides resources to study the Latino civil rights movement.  Included is a brief Mexican-American history and a history of Mexicans in California. Standard 11.10.5


American Life History


These life histories were written by Folklore Project staff of the Federal Writers' Project for the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936-1940. If you search by the states New Mexico or Texas, you will get many oral histories of Hispanic Americans describing the life and folklore of both areas. Because the historians interviewed many of the elderly, the information on life in the late 19th century is extensive.



Children’s Literature


Account, The: Alvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca's Relacion (Recovering the Us Hispanic Literary Heritage) by Alvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca, Martin A. Favata, and Jose B. Fernandez


Across the Northern Frontier: Spanish Explorations in Colorado by Phil Carson


Alvar NunŪez Cabeza de Vaca: A Preliminary Report on his Wanderings in Texas by Brownie Ponton


Anza Trail and the Settling of California, The by Vladimir Guerrero


Best Book of Hispanic Biographies (Fiesta! Siesta! and All the Rest-A!) by Carole Marsh


California Missions (We the People) by Ann Heinrichs


California Presidios (American Forts and Their Strategic Importance) by Jack S. Williams


California Ranchos (We the People) by Natalie M. Rosinsky


Calling the Doves/El Canto De Las Palomas: El Canto De Las Palomas by Juan Felipe Herrera and Elly Simmons


Cesar Chavez (Biografias Hispanoamericanas / Hispanic-American Biographies (Spanish) by Mary Olmstead


Cesar Chavez (Breaking Barriers) by Jill C. Wheeler


Cesar Chavez (Great Hispanic Heritage) by Hal Marcovitz


Cesar Chavez: A Voice For Farmworkers (Latino Biography Library) by Barbara C. Cruz


Cristina Saralegui: A Real-Life Reader Biography by Valerie Menard


Conquistadores, The: Building a Spanish Empire in the Americas (Proud Heritage: the Hispanic Library) by R. Conrad Stein


Diego Rivera (Hispanics of Achievement) by James D. Cockcroft


Edward James Olmos (Hispanic Heritage) by Elizabeth Coonrod Martinez


Ellen Ochoa (Biografias Hispanoamericanas/Hispanic-American Biographies (Spanish) by Teresa Iverson


Ellen Ochoa: First Latina Astronaut (Famous Latinos) by Lila Guzman and Rick Guzman


Ellen Ochoa: The First Hispanic Woman in Space (The Library of Astronaut Biographies) by Joy Paige


Exploration of the California Coast: The Adventures of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, Francis Drake, Sebastian Vizcaino, and Other Explorers of North America's West Coast (Exploration & Discovery) by Clarissa Aykroyd


Famous Mexican Americans by Janet Nomura Morey and Wendy Dunn


Famous People of Hispanic Heritage (Famous People of Hispanic Heritage) by Barbara J. Marvis, Valerie Menard, Christine Granados, and Susan Zannos


Father Junipero Serra and the California Missions: And the California Missions (Proud Heritage-the Hispanic Library) by Sarah Bowler


Fire in My Hands: Revised and Expanded Edition by Gary Soto


Fray Juan Crespi (Latinos in American History) by John Bankston


From Coronado to Escalante: The Explorers of the Spanish Southwest (World Explorers) by John Miller Morris          


Gaspar de Portola (Latinos in American History) by Jim Whiting and Wayne Wilson


Hispanic Scientists (Capstone Short Biographies) by Jetty St. John


Julian Nava: My Mexican-American Journey (Hispanic Civil Rights (Paperback) by Julian Nava and Henry A. J. Ramos


Junipero Serra (Raintree Hispanic Stories) by Jan Gleiter, Kathleen Thompson, and Charles Shaw


Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (Latinos in American History) by Kathleen Tracy


Mary Joe Fernandez: A Real-Life Reader Biography by Melanie Cole


Never Turn Back: Father Serra’s Mission (Stories of America) by James J. Rawls and Alex Haley


Padres of the California Mission Frontier (People of the California Missions) by Jack S. Williams and Thomas L. Davis


People Person: The Story Of Sociologist Marta Tienda (Women’s Adventures in Science) by Diane O'Connell


Ponce De Leon: Exploring Florida And Puerto Rico (In the Footsteps of Explorers) by Rachel Eagen


Quinceanera by Mary Lankford


Raul Julia (Contemporary Hispanic Americans) by Frank Perez and Ann Weil


Robert Rodriguez (Real-Life Reader Biography) by Barbara J. Marvis


Sammy Sosa (Overcoming Adversity) by Ann Gaines


Soldiers and Their Families of the California Mission Frontier (People of the California Missions) by Jack S. Williams and Thomas L. Davis


Spanish Exploration of Florida: The Adventures of the Spanish Conquistadors, Including Juan Ponce De Leon, Panfilo De Narvaez, Alvan Nunez Cabeza De ... De Soto, and pedro (Exploration & Discovery) by William Thompson and Dorcas Thompson


Spanish Exploration of the Southwest: The 16th-Century Journeys of Cabeza De Vaca and Coronado Through the Desert Lands of the American Southwest (Exploration & Discovery) by Leonore Wilson


Spanish Missions of California (The American West) by Rob Staeger


To Fly With the Swallows: A Story of Old California (Stories of America) by Dana Catharine De Ruiz and Debbie Heller


Townspeople and Ranchers of the California Mission Frontier (People of the California Missions) by Jack S. Williams and Thomas L. Davis


Valley of the Moon: the Diary of Marýýa Rosalia de Milagros by Sherry Garland


Way People Live - Life in a California Mission by Eileen Keremitsis


When the Mission Padre Came to the Rancho: The Early California Adventures of Rosalinda and Simon Delgado (I Am American) by Gare Thompson