By NHCOA Media. This article originally appeared on the National Hispanic Council on Aging blog.
September 15 to October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month, sometimes also referred to as Latino Heritage Month. The celebration begins in the middle of the month, as a nod to the anniversaries of the national independence of several Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, which recognize September 15 as the date of their independence.
It is followed by Mexico’s Independence Day, on September 16, and Chile’s on September 18. Another important date that is celebrated within this 30-day period is the Day of Indigenous Resistance or Day of Hispanidad, which is commemorated on October 12.
Hispanic Heritage Month has become a great celebration in the United States. It is a national celebration to honor the history, culture, and influence of past generations who came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. For more than 40 years, Hispanics across the country commemorate this month with pride and joy, as well as highlighting the importance of diversity.
The celebration began in 1968 under president Lyndon Johnson’s administration as Hispanic Heritage Week. Years later, President Ronald Reagan proposed extending the commemoration to one month.
On August 17, 1988, National Hispanic Heritage Month was officially designated as the 30-day period between September 15 and October 15. During this period we recognize the contribution and achievements of Hispanic and Latino Americans that have benefited our communities and the nation. We also celebrate the culture and traditions of Latinos and Hispanics and their achievements in our society.
The National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts plays an important role in this celebration. The foundation’s president, Félix Sánchez, states that “Hispanic Heritage Month gives us the opportunity to update the American people on who Latinos are today and to provide a contemporary context to all our communities that are very different, that are part of the Latino ecosystem.”
Part of that contemporary context is the fact that Hispanics and Latinos make up a growing share of the general U.S. population. The 2020 U.S. census showed that Hispanics and Latinos make up the second fastest-growing multiracial group (after Asians, according to the Pew Research Center). By 2020, 62.1 million people identified as Hispanic or Latino, representing 18% of the total U.S. population. That number had grown by 23% since 2010. By comparison, the U.S. population that is not of Hispanic or Latino origin grew by only 4.3%, according to census data. Due to this percentage and their contributions to society, it is necessary to have adequate representation since they constitute a large part of the country’s population.
How it is Celebrated
Hispanic Heritage month is a time to hold events like parades and parties, to share special dishes of Latin countries, listen to Latin music, celebrate with folk dances, visit local museums to learn more about Latin history, donate to Hispanic charities, or simply get together and talk to the community around you. Knowing who they are and why they are in the neighborhoods they are in allows us to discover that we probably have more in common than we think.
Hispanic Heritage Month has the function of being an “introductory month” or a “starting point” to the celebration of Hispanic cultures, said the director of education of the Smithsonian Latino Center, Emily Key. We celebrate Latino cultures all throughout the year, regardless of the month.
“Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity for the Latino community to reinforce their achievements,” said Félix Sánchez “but also to extend beyond the Latino community, to remind them that we are all Americans.”
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!