Celebrating Latino Heritage Month

iowa department of human rights

Office of Latino Affairs Newsletter

Latino Heritage Month

Celebrating Latino Heritage Month


2020 Latino Heritage Month Proclamation

About Latino Heritage Month


Iowa and the nation set aside time between September 15 and October 15 to recognize and celebrate the rich heritage, culture and the contributions made by Latinos during Latino Heritage Month. 

This celebration started in September, 1968 when President Lyndon B. Johnson was authorized by Congress to proclaim national Hispanic Heritage Week, and directed that this week included September 15 and 16 to celebrate the anniversaries of independence for the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Mexico. In 1988, the National Hispanic Heritage Month was established.

Let's talk terms: Latino, Latinx and Hispanic

Latinos are classified as individuals living in the U.S. whose ancestors originate from the Caribbean Islands, Central America, Mexico, and South America, all countries that were colonized by Spaniards and Portuguese. Latinos speak Romance languages: French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Latinos are the largest ethnic minority population in Iowa and in the U.S. 

Latinx is a gender-neutral term that is used as an alternative to Latino/Latina/Latin@.

The term Hispanic refers to people whose heritage is derived from Spanish speaking countries - the term is about language and doesn’t include people from Brazil who speak Portuguese, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin who speak French.

2020 Iowa Latino Hall of Fame

Many outstanding Latinos/as helped shape Iowa and continue to contribute their talents and skills to improve the quality of life in this state. To recognize and honor these achievers and to provide visible examples for tomorrow’s Latino leaders, the Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs established the Iowa Latino Hall of Fame in 2017 with the goal of ensuring that the efforts of Latino leaders are honorably recognized and celebrated. 

Among the many strong Latino leaders are political and social activists, scientists, educators, writers and spiritual and community leaders. They represent the Latinos who have helped shape Iowa, the United States, and the world. Their induction into the Iowa Latino Hall of Fame will enhance the visibility of their contributions to their work, communities, and the status of Latinos in Iowa. 


Meet the three remarkable Iowans that will be inducted into the 2020 Iowa Latino Hall of Fame:

Elizabeth Balcarcel


Elizabeth Balcarcel rom Zacatecas, Mexico - Des Moines, Iowa

Elizabeth is a state and national leader in the anti-violence movement, working tirelessly for safety and immigrant rights. Her compassion and diligence have improved many lives.




MIchael R. Reyes

Michael R. Reyes of Mexican heritage - Davenport, Iowa

Michael has a long history as a role model for the Latino communities in Iowa. He was the Iowa LULAC director, a U.S. Army veteran and a member of the Rock Island American Legion post 200 for over 23 years. 

Claudia Gabriela Rivera

Gabriela Rivera from Mexico City, Mexico - Coralville, Iowa

Committed to expanding the educational opportunities to Iowa students and residents, Gabriela Rivera demonstrates the importance of Latino values through advocacy, service, and community.


2020 Iowa Latino Hall of Fame Awards



Latinx Youth Leadership Award recipient:

Crystal Ambriz from Tijuana, Mexico -Columbus Junction, Iowa

Advocate for workers rights and housing discrimination, 
She is a DACAmented, community organizer, referee, artist, runner, and leader for young people that are ready to make change to happen.


Iowa LGBTQIA Leadership Award

Iowa LGBTQIA Leadership Award:

Buffy E. Jamison from Des Moines, Iowa

An educator who lives at the intersection of Blackness, Queerness, and disability. Her work in the community unites these issues to create collective liberation. Buffy is the co-chair of the Iowa Queer Communities of Color Coalition.


Henny Ohr

Robert D. Ray Award for Equity and Justice:

Henny Ohr from Seoul, Korea - Johnston, Iowa

Henny Ohr is a Founder and Executive Director of EMBARC, Iowa’s first refugee-led, non-profit service provider.  Henny supports immigrant and refugee communities with the knowledge and resources they need to feel at home in Iowa. She has helped many.


Induction Ceremony

The Iowa Latino Hall of Fame is held around National Latino and Hispanic Heritage Month, from September 15 to October 15, which celebrates and honors the contributions made by Latinos and Hispanics in the United States.

What:   2020 Iowa Latino Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

When:  Saturday, October 17, 2020 at 6:00 pm

Due to COVID-19, the public can view the ceremony virtually on the Commission's Facebook Page

Upcoming Events

Commission Meeting | October 9, 2020 

Iowa Latino Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony| October 17, 2020