Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15, 2022 Mary Burke

It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month! Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

The dates of Hispanic Heritage Month were decided in 1988 to pay tribute to a wide array of Hispanic countries. The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively. The dates extend into October to pay homage to El Día de la Raza, Day of the Race, which celebrates the many countries colonized after the arrival of Christopher Columbus.

Let’s take a quick look at how HSU celebrates the culture, heritage, and contributions of Hispanic Americans. And, be sure to check back throughout the month to read more spotlights on our connection to Hispanic Heritage!

The Cowboy Connection

1908 Bronco Cover

The official mascot of Hardin-Simmons is the Cowboy (as much as we love Gilbert and Dam-it, they are technically unofficial mascots). The use of the Cowboy in school publications can be traced to the early 1900s. Cowboy is a term we all know and associate with the American West, but did you know its origins are Hispanic?

Vaqueros were skilled riders and ropers. Vaqueros popularized ranching traditions and the distinctive clothing of spurs, lassos, and bandanas we associate with cowboys. The skills and lifestyle of the vaquero originated in Spain and traversed the globe with Spain’s many colonies, ultimately landing in Mexico.

After Mexico’s independence from Spain on September 16, 1810 (notice how that date falls within Hispanic Heritage Month) vaqueros were hired throughout Texas for their ranching knowledge and abilities. Eventually, once Texas achieved independence from Mexico, the vaquero became synonymous with Texas and the name anglicized to cowboy.

Traditional Roots in Reaching Hispanic Students

O.C. Pope, the third president of HSU and the person responsible for connecting James Simmons to our narrative, was instrumental in Baptist mission work throughout Mexico and the plains of Texas. In 1878, Pope was the managing editor of the Texas Baptist Herald and used his platform to champion for women, minorities, and Native American needs. In the 1880’s, Pope was tasked to represent the American Baptist Home Mission Societies throughout the Texas border and into Mexico.

As a founder of Abilene Baptist College, now Hardin-Simmons University, Pope had experience working with marginalized groups of the time and worked tirelessly to include various voices at the table. This is a culture that continues today across the campus.

Celebrating Our Students

On the Hardin-Simmons campus today, over 422 students identify as Hispanic. In addition, our international students represent more than 40 countries, and many are from Spanish-speaking countries including Costa Rica, Mexico, and Guatemala.

During international chapel each year, prayer and songs are raised in multiple languages.

Studying abroad is an opportunity for everyone on campus to learn about different cultures, perspectives, and global ties, while sharing traditions and faith. In addition to students coming to the U.S. to study, Hardin-Simmons offers students the opportunity to study in Salamanca, Spain to experience traditional Spanish culture first-hand.

Student clubs and events celebrating Hispanic culture can be found throughout the years to the present day.

In 1914, a student club, called Junta Progressa, focused on cultural understanding of Hispanic countries and improving one’s ability to speak Spanish.

Sigma Delta Pi, the national Spanish honor society, was organized at HSU in 1949. The focus of the group is to stimulate interest in Hispanic culture and Spanish literature. This group still inducts members today.

Currently, Sangre is the campus’s Latin Student Union. The goal of the organization is to bring inclusion, awareness, and community to Hardin-Simmons.

Student Life has a calendar of events scheduled to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Be sure to follow our social channels to learn how to participate and get involved.

Check back throughout the month to read more spotlights on our connection to Hispanic Heritage!