(this blog was authored by the CLI's Kedzie Schuster)
Each year, Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 to commemorate and celebrate American Latinx and Hispanic communities’ culture, history, and contributions.
The timing of Hispanic Heritage month coincides with the Independence Day for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. These Latin American countries declared independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. Mexico, Chile, and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18, and September 21, respectively.
Hispanic Heritage Month was initially a week, but in 1987 U.S. Representative Esteban E. Torres proposed the current 31-day period so that the United States could “properly observe and coordinate events and activities to celebrate Hispanic culture and achievement.” Torres also said, “We 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.” Hispanic Heritage Week was expanded to a full month under Ronald Reagan in 1988. On September 14, 1989, George H.W. Bush became the first president to declare September 15 – October 15 National Hispanic Heritage Month.
As of July 2019, the United States’ Hispanic population is 60.6 million, second only to Mexico. Their ancestor’s influence spreads far and wide. America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, Florida, was founded by Spaniards more than 25 years before the Jamestown settlement. Mission Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion in San Antonio, TX, is one of America’s oldest standing stone churches. Hispanic legacy is found in every nook of the American Southwest, but their impact does not end there.
“We are not a monolith. We come from Texas and Mexico. Brazil and Belize. Cuba and Costa Rica. We are diverse and dynamic. We contain multitudes. Our identity cannot be easily defined. And it shouldn’t. It’s part of what makes us, and our culture, our accomplishments, our struggles and our triumphs, so incredibly unique.” – Raquel Tamez
The Hispanic and Latinx legacies are tough to put into words. Their contributions have enriched every facet of our society. So, this month, we celebrate the resilience of Hispanic and Latinx people. We celebrate the close-knit family structure and proud communities. We honor those who have shaped American culture and history and those who continue to do so.