History of Hispanic Heritage Month
What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean?
The celebration was created to recognize the positive impact that Hispanic Americans have left on the country. "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," according to the official government website. It takes place from September 15-October 15 every year.
As of 2020, the Hispanic population in the U.S. is 62.1 million—the largest minority group in the country—according to the 2020 Census report.
Who started Hispanic Heritage Month?
President Lyndon B. Johnson first introduced National Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968. Congress expanded it from a week to a month long beginning in 1989, after it was amended into public law in 1988 during Ronald Reagan's presidency.
In Presidential Proclamation 3869, available via the Library of Congress, President Johnson wrote, “Wishing to pay special tribute to the Hispanic tradition, and having in mind the fact that our five Central American neighbors celebrate their Independence Day on the fifteenth of September and the Republic of Mexico on the sixteenth, the Congress by House Joint Resolution 1299, has requested the President to issue annually a proclamation designating the week including September 15 and 16 as National Hispanic Heritage Week.”
In addition, the following government institutions honor Hispanic Heritage Month: The Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Park Service.
Why is it first celebrated on September 15?
That’s the date when five Latin American countries—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua—earned their independence from Spain in 1821.
Mexico, Chile, and Belize became independent on the 16th, 18th, and 21st from Spain and the United Kingdom, respectively.
How do people celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?
The official government website typically keeps a calendar of highlighted activities hosted throughout the United States, from concerts to book and art festivals and parades. A majority of the festivities held throughout the United States are family-friendly and occur at the local level—and many are free.