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Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with Library of Congress Primary Sources

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Preparatory drawing for a mural by Cândido Portinari, around 1941.

This post comes to us from Danna Bell-Russel of the Library of Congress.

National Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15th to October 15th, and the collections of the Library of Congress are rich in primary sources for your students to explore. Here are some suggestions:

Students can travel back hundreds of years and conduct an in-depth investigation of paintings, sculptures, maps, and artifacts created by the peoples of central and South America using the Exploring the Early Americas interactives from the Library of Congress.

Play your students Spanish-language folk songs that were recorded in the early twentieth century in different regions of the United States: California Gold, , Hispano Music and Culture from the Northern Rio Grande, Southern Mosaic, and Florida Folklife from the WPA Collections.  Students can compare the different perspectives they find in different regions, and compare them to storytelling songs from today.

In the 1940s, the Brazilian painter Cândido Portinari created four vivid murals depicting key moments in the Spanish and Portuguese experience in the Americas. Students can examine these murals, which are in the historic Thomas Jefferson building of the Library of Congress, and can learn more about Portinari and the paintings. Teachers can use the Library’s prints and photographs analysis guide to help students analyze the paintings and consider why Portinari chose these scenes for murals in the Library.

The jazz musician Machito with other musicians. Photo by William P. Gottlieb, around 1947.

Moving closer to the present day, you can have students experience oral history interviews of Hispanic Americans in the military. Have your students interview a veteran and compare his or her experience with that of one of the interviews.

Additional Library of Congress Resources

The Library’s Hispanic Americans Themed Resources page can help you find more primary and secondary sources. One standout item is a math lesson plan using the Huexotzinco Codex, a document created by native peoples of Puebla, Mexico in 1531.

The Law Library of Congress has developed a page documenting the laws that made National Hispanic Heritage Month an official celebration.

How will you use primary sources to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month with your students?


  1. Wonderful post! Great to know about the Hispanic American themed resources page.

    Although not about primary resources, the science guide Latinos in Math & Science:
    Resources for kids, young adults and teachers might be of interest to your readers 🙂

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