On Tuesday, the National Hispanic Heritage Month began in the US. The annual event, which honours the history, culture and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors hailed from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America, is marked every year from September 15 to October 15.
The observation was started by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week, and was extended to an entire month by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, the year it was enacted into law.
According to its official website, the Hispanic Heritage Month “pays tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.”
Significance of the Hispanic Heritage Month
The Hispanic Heritage Month begins in the middle (and not at the beginning) of September, because of the significance September 15 holds in Latin American history — being the Independence Day of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The five Central American nations declared their independence from Spain together on September 15, 1821.
The next two days– September 16 and September 18– are also important, being the Independence Days of Mexico and Chile, respectively. Both became free from Spanish rule in 1810 at the height of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815). Another nation on the American continent, Belize, became independent from Great Britain on September 21, 1981.
Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, a culturally important celebration, also falls on October 12 during the 30-day period.
Every year, events honouring Hispanic American art and culture are organised by several institutions, including The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, according to a TIME report.
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Hispanics in the US
With a population of over 5.7 crore, Hispanic Americans are currently the largest minority group in the US, making up a fifth of the total US population, according to the Pew Research Center.
More than half– 3.5 crore– are of Mexican origin, followed by Puerto Rican (53 lakh), and about 10 lakh each of Salvadorans, Cubans, Dominicans, Guatemalans and Colombians.
The community is referred to as Hispanic, Latino or Latinx– terms that refer to a person’s origin or culture, without considering their race. According to History.com, in the US Census of 2020, those who could identify their origin as Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or “another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin”, were counted as Hispanic or Latino or Spanish.
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