History & Facts
Hispanic Heritage Month is approaching! From September 15 through October 15, Hispanics across the United States will share in a full month of festivities to celebrate their rich histories, cultures and contributions to society.
So why does Hispanic Heritage Month begin on September 15 every year? In 1821, five different Latin American countries gained independence on this day: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. The following day, Mexico celebrates its anniversary of independence, while Chile celebrates on September 18. Just three days later, Belize partakes in its own Independence Day celebrations.
With Congress’ permission, President Johnson is credited for enacting the observation for one week in 1968. Twenty years later, President Reagan extended the celebration in 1988 to cover a 30-day period, which is now known as Hispanic Heritage Month.
In addition to acknowledging the independence days of various countries around the world, Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the presence of Hispanics in North America, which began with Christopher Columbus’ (or Cristobal Colón), discovery of the Americas in 1492. It wasn’t until 1565 that the first permanent Spanish settlement (in the present-day United States) was established in St. Augustine, FL—about 55 years before the first British colony in Plymouth, MA.
The identifying term “Hispanic” originally referred to those who trace their roots to 20 different Spanish-speaking nations in Central and Latin America as well as Spain itself. It was first adopted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1980. Beginning in 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau provided the option for people also to identify themselves as Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban or “other Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.” While the United States government uses the term for its census data, anyone may self-identify as Hispanic.
Will you be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month? If so, how? Let us know in the comments below!