A Look at the History of Hispanic Heritage Month

Sevilla Tovar, News Editor

Once a year, people from all over America observe 30 days specifically recognizing those from Spanish-speaking countries. Hispanic Heritage month is a time to show appreciation for those whose heritage is connected to our neighbors to the south and beyond.

   According to the United States Department of Education, “Hispanic Heritage Month” was originally observed as “Hispanic Heritage Week” under President Lyndon Johnson, but it was later extended to a month during President Ronald Reagan’s term in 1988 (sites.ed.gov). The thirty days are acknowledged because of the numerous ways those from Latin America as well as other Hispanic countries have positively impacted the United States. According to the An article on the website for the National Hispanic Council on Aging explained, “Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the history and countless contributions that Latinos have made to the nation over the years. This month we also honor the cultural richness of Hispanics, who come from Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean” (nhcoa.org).

   People with Hispanic origins have improved the United States in many ways. An article in the Downey Patriot newspaper said, “Latinos remain a powerhouse in terms of the growing number of businesses owned and operated. Political influence and as a consumer base. The shaping of America can be attributed, in part, to the influence and contributions made by Latinos.” For example, the article added, Latinos contributed to local and national economies with over two trillion dollars of purchasing power nationally, as well as Latino businesses creating three million jobs to the U.S. workforce annually (thedowneypatriot.com). 

   Hispanic Americans have not only impacted the United States economically, but have also influenced everyday life and changed the social structure of America. According to The Latin Way website, “Spanish is spoken in 41 million homes in the country, and so it has positioned itself as the second most studied language in educational institutions.” Other ways Latinos have affected America is through the popularization of Cinco de Mayo (which isn’t even celebrated in Mexico) and the incorporation of music by Hispanic artists into everyday life. Even birthday celebrations have been transformed. The Latin Way website reported, “Piñatas are part of the birthday celebrations of twelve million children, where half of them are not even Latino” (nic.lat).

   If someone looked at Hispanic Heritage month without knowing its significance, they may be confused as to why the “month” begins in September and ends in October. However, the layout of the month is intentional. According to CNN, “Hispanic Heritage Month takes place over 30 days starting on the 15 — a nod to the anniversaries of national independence for a number of Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua all recognize September 15 as the date of their independence, while Mexico’s independence is celebrated September 16 and Chile celebrates its independence September 18” (cnn.com).

   Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in numerous ways. According to the United States Department of Education, “The month has been celebrated nationwide through festivals, art shows, conferences, community gatherings, and much more.” Sophomore Stephanie Pulido celebrates Hispanic Heritage month as well with her family. She said, “Before Covid, my family would go to events and my siblings and I would dress up in outfits that represented our Mexican culture. We would wear white dresses and skirts that had flowers decorating them. I remember my sisters and I would always complain about having to wear the outfits, but looking back at photos, we looked so nice representing our culture” (sites.ed.gov).

   Culture is the backbone of America’s diversity. Hispanic cultures have influenced almost every part of the United States, with everything from favorite foods to music. Spanish Teacher Nora Dethsy loves Hispanic Heritage month because it gives her a chance to share Spanish culture with her students. “I’m very proud to come from such a rich culture, and I’m proud to share it with others. I love to hear Spanish music almost everywhere. I love that others get to experience my traditions as well,” she said. 

   As President Joe Biden put it, “During National Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize that Hispanic heritage is American heritage.” The recognized month also helps to increase a sense of pride in those with Hispanic origin. Pulido said, “Hispanic heritage month makes me feel proud of my family and my roots and glad that our heritage is being acknowledged and celebrated.” This Hispanic Heritage Month, recognize that your heritage is something that should be celebrated (sites.ed.gov).