By Robyn Moreno
Hispanic Heritage Month highlights the achievements and contributions of Latinxs across the United States—and beyond.
While most people know about pop icons including Jennifer Lopez, Selena, and Demi Lovato; political powerhouses like Sonia Sotomayor and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, legends like EGOT winner Rita Moreno; sports heroes including Oscar de la Hoya and Mariano Rivera, and other famous Hispanic Americans, Hispanic Heritage Month shines a light on the broader (and lesser-known) accomplishments of Latinxs across genres. From Latinxs lighting up Hollywood (in front of and behind the screen) to books penned by LatinX authors, to diverse Latin foods and music and so much more, Latinxs have contributed to every facet of American society. Read on to learn more about what is Hispanic Heritage Month and how Latinxs have helped define American culture.
What is Hispanic Heritage Month?
According to the Hispanic Heritage Month official website, it is observed: “by celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.” For generations, Latinxs have contributed to the food, music, business, science, and culture that we know as American, and the 30 days that make up Hispanic Heritage Month each fall is just one opportunity to showcase these achievements.
Latinxs are the country’s second-largest racial or ethnic group, behind white non-Hispanics according to the latest 2020 census. Latinxs now account for 18.7 percent of the U.S. population up 2.4 percent in the previous decade with 62.1 million Latinxs living across America with big concentrations in New York, California, Texas, and Florida.
When is Hispanic Heritage Month?
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated annually from September 15 to October 15. Its timing coincides with the Independence Day of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua which are all celebrated on September 15. Mexico, Chile, and Belize also celebrate their respective independence days in that same time frame. In addition, on October 12, (Columbus Day/Indigenous People’s Day in the United States) Mexico celebrates Día de la Raza (Race Day) “in recognition of the mixed indigenous and European heritage of Mexico.”
Hispanic Heritage Month is similar to other months of recognition and celebrations like Native American History Heritage Month in November, African American History Month in February, Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, and LGBTQ Pride Month in June.
What’s the history behind Hispanic Heritage Month?
Hispanic Heritage Month first started as a week when it was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. According to Congressional history, the week was created to bring attention and awareness to “Hispanic-American contributions to the United States,” along with networking opportunities for “grassroots and civil rights activists inside and outside the Hispanic-American community.”
Almost 20 years later, Representative Esteban Torres of California, a proud Mexican-American, submitted a bill to expand it into Hispanic Heritage Month in 1987 saying supporters of the bill “want the American people to learn of our heritage. We want the public to know that we share a legacy with the rest of the country, a legacy that includes artists, writers, Olympic champions, and leaders in business, government, cinema, and science.” That bill didn’t pass, but Senator Paul Simon of Illinois submitted a similar bill that President Ronald Reagan signed into law in 1988 creating now what is Hispanic Heritage Month.
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