One Language, Many Cultures

By Angela Padron

Spanish is spoken in 21 countries throughout the world. With the exception of Spain in Europe, all of these countries are located among North, Central and South America. Just as English has many dialects depending on where you live, each country has it’s own accent and variations on certain vocabulary words.

However, not all Hispanic countries share the same culture. Among all the countries, there is a wide variety of dances, musical styles, foods, and art. For example, Mariachi bands, tacos, and fajitas are most associated with Mexico. Flamenco dancing is most prevalent in Spain while salsa is mostly danced in countries like Colombia, Cuba, and Puerto Rico.

Most Hispanic countries, though, are highly influenced by their religious beliefs. Thus they have certain religious holidays and celebrations in common, like Carnaval. Other traditions are also common among Hispanic cultures, such as Three Kings Day (El Día de los Reyes) celebrated on January 6 to acknowledge the arrival of the three wise men to Bethlehem, celebrating quinceañeras for girls turning 15 (like Sweet Sixteens in the U.S.), and signing “Las Mañanitas” in addition to “Happy Birthday.”

When teaching about Hispanic Heritage Month in your classrooms, it’s important to introduce all types of Hispanic cultures to your students.

  • Think about assigning each of your students one of the Spanish-speaking countries to research, write, and present about.
  • Have students create a flag from their assigned country and display them around the room – like having your own United Nations in your classroom!
  • Distribute recipes from the various countries and have your students’ families offer to cook.
  • Watch videos of various Hispanic musical styles. Then hold a Hispanic Heritage Week celebration where kids can try different foods and learn different dances.

In this way, your students will receive a well-rounded education and better understand their world around them.

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