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Hispanic Heritage Month Resources from 8 New Jersey Libraries

Two Afro-Latinx women celebrating


September 15 kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month, which recognizes the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 20.9 percent of New Jerseyans identify as Hispanic or Latinx (the gender-neutral term for Latino/a), making up a sizable portion of our state’s population. 

Often, the terms “Hispanic” and “Latinx” are used interchangeably, but there is a difference. The term “Hispanic” includes individuals living in the United States with ancestral ties to a Spanish-speaking country like Spain, Mexico and Puerto Rico, for example. “Latinx” refers to people from Latin American countries. This includes Brazil, where the citizens speak Portuguese. Many people can be both Hispanic and Latinx, as most Latin American countries have Spanish as their primary language. 

Currently, 18.5 percent of Americans identify as Hispanic of Latinx. The United States originally introduced Hispanic Heritage Month as a week in 1968, and expanded to a monthly observance in 1988. Sept. 15 was chosen as the beginning of the observance, as it represents the day many Latin American countries received their independence. 

Being a diverse program, Alternate Route is proud to celebrate our many Hispanic candidates, instructors and partners, as well as New Jersey’s diverse population. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we will be uplifting some of these voices through our blog, social media and newsletter content. 

A great way to get started with your Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations is to connect with your local library. Libraries are a free resource for expanding your education and exploring your curiosity, and many New Jersey libraries have unique programs this month. 


Dowdell Library

On Sept. 27, Dowdell Library will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with Marcia Mercado  by reading stories in Spanish and English, listening and dancing to traditional music and making crafts, including a Frida Kahlo mural created by the community. The online catalog makes it easy to search for resources focused on Hispanic history and lived experience. 

Jersey City Library

The library will be honoring one of its own: Hugo Morales, an Ecuadorian-born artist who tragically passed earlier this year due to COVID-19 complications. In addition to his art, Morales - who held a master’s degree in art education - was a big part of the Jersey City community. As an artist, he has been honored by the State of New Jersey and the County of Hudson. In addition to the work on display, he has also contributed art to a number of publications. 

Morales’ work will be on display from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, 2021. You can learn more about the exhibition here

Newark Public Library 

This Hispanic Heritage Month, the Newark Public Library is celebrating by bringing in esteemed speakers and talented musicians. On Sept. 25, the library is throwing Rhythm & Movement: Latinx Music Festival Part 1. The festival showcases music and dancing from the Latin America and Caribbean regions. Part 2 of the festival happens Oct. 2. 

Newark Public Library wraps up the month with “Abriendo camino: First Generation Latino College Students” on Oct. 14. During this event, first-generation Latinx college students from the 1980s through the 2020s discuss their experiences, challenges and accomplishments.

The library also has an ongoing commitment to address the needs of New Jersey’s diverse Hispanic communities with The New Jersey Hispanic Research and Education Center. The resource is a result of Newark Public Library’s partnership with Friends of the Hispanic Research Information Center.

New Brunswick Free Public Library

On Sept. 30, the New Brunswick Free Public Library is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with its Hispanic Heritage Program, happening in-person and virtually. The event will have crafts and games for children and are best for grades K-5. The event is free, but the library asks that you register prior to attending. You can do so here.

Ocean County Library

Ocean County Library is going all out this month, with Hispanic-centered programming beginning Sept. 15 and running through Oct. 15. The library kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month with a virtual performance by Alborada Spanish Dance Theater. The piece, titled “Romeria del Rocio,” is one of two performances the theater will perform over the month, in addition to hosting a teen dance workshop.. 

In addition to the performances, which also includes “Spanish Tapas,” Ocean County Library will have unique programming. Create rock art like Taino Petroglyphs, watch The Book of Life during family movie night or go on a blind date with a book, specifically chosen for Hispanic Heritage Month. The library has events happening every day during Hispanic Heritage Month, and they can be found here.

Seton Hall Library 

This past summer, Seton Hall Library announced a plan to incorporate more Hispanic authors into its collection. Through a partnership with the Joseph A. Unanue Latino Institute, the Unanue Latino Institute Latin American Collection will get an expansion. The collection is currently located in The Monsignor William Noé Fields Archives and Special Collections Center and the Walsh Library Gallery and features a collection of works and documents from major figures in Latin American history. 

Part of the partnership, which was initiated this time in 2020, includes a Hispanic Heritage Month archive. The archive, which is found here, includes the university’s Hispanic-centered programming, as well as cultural programming outside of Hispanic Heritage Month.  

Somerset County Library System of New Jersey

Like Jersey City Library, Somerset County Library is celebrating the Hispanic artists that make up its community. During all Hispanic Heritage Month, the library will host its Hispanic Heritage Art Display. There will also be engaging events happening over the month. On Sept. 18, the library hosts the family friendly “Fiesta with Flo,” a bilingual musical experience. Happening later that day is live music from David Cedeño and his Latin Orchestra. Other events include “A Tour Through Mexico,” a program on Frida Kahlo and more.  

In 2020, the library system allowed community members to assist in digitizing Somerset County’s Hispanic heritage. The activity gave attendees a deeper look at Hispanic heritage in their community, connection to the past and a way to preserve that heritage forever. 


South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative has also created a list of books (in physical, audio and e-book format), which is found on the website. With more than 50 titles currently available in the collection, there is something for everyone. Popular titles include The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez and American Like Me by actor America Ferrera. 

If you’re considering following your dream of teaching, Rutgers Alternate Route can offer you the support and training you need to succeed. Be sure to follow Rutgers Alternate Route on Twitter and sign up for Alternate Route’s monthly newsletter for more information and stories from the field of education.

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Heather Ngoma

Heather Ngoma has over 20 years experience collaborating with educators across New Jersey to drive education innovation. She currently serves as the Director of Rutgers University's Alternate Route Teacher Training Program at the Center for Effective School Practices, a program which helps career changers, recent college graduates and other aspiring education professionals become licensed teachers in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter @heatherngoma.