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What Is Hispanic Heritage Month, and Why Do We Celebrate It? What You Need to Know 2023

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated annually from September 15th to October 15th. But what exactly is it, and why is it celebrated for a whole month? In this article, we’ll delve into the history of Hispanic Heritage Month, its significance, and how it’s observed today.

Hispanic Heritage Month

The History of Hispanic Heritage Month

Before it became a month-long celebration, Hispanic Heritage Month was initially just a week-long event. It was established by Representatives Edward R. Roybal and Henry B. Gonzalez, who introduced a bill for a one-week observance known as Hispanic Heritage Week.

“The bill was presented by young Mexican Americans demanding equitable access to government services and education,” explained Francis Negron-Muntaner, a professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

Although Hispanic Heritage Month started as a government initiative, it was also a response to the demands of Latino activists, especially during the 1960s, who sought recognition of their culture, history, and contributions.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill into law in 1968.

It wasn’t until two decades later, on August 17, 1988, that Hispanic Heritage Week was officially expanded to a month-long celebration by President Ronald Reagan, spanning from September 15th to October 15th. The proclamation was made public by President George H.W. Bush in 1989.

Why Is Hispanic Heritage Month Divided Between September and October?

You might wonder why Hispanic Heritage Month is split between two months. There’s a good explanation for that. September 15th was chosen as the starting point for Hispanic Heritage Month because it marks the anniversary of several Latin American countries gaining independence, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. These nations declared their independence from Spain on that day in 1821.

Mexico, most Central American countries, and Chile commemorate their independence on September 16th, 18th, and 19th, respectively.

Columbus Day falls within Hispanic Heritage Month, but instead of honoring the controversial explorer, Spanish-speaking countries celebrate “Día de la Raza” or “Race Day” on this date. This holiday, which is included in Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States, recognizes the blend of indigenous, European, and African heritage in Spanish-speaking countries.

How Is Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrated Today?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, just as there isn’t a single Latinx or Hispanic experience.

“Observing Hispanic Heritage Month can range from hosting cultural festivals to participating in or supporting Latinx communities’ efforts,” said Emily K., Director of Education at the Smithsonian Latino Center in Washington, D.C.

National museums and institutions like the Smithsonian National Museum of American History also commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month by offering programs and resources to honor Latinx and Hispanic communities. They encourage people to explore their local museums and libraries to see if they’re hosting similar events. The best part: many of these events are often free.

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In Washington, D.C., for example, the Library of Congress celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month through blog posts, exhibitions, workshops, displays, screenings, lectures, and special events.

For those who want to celebrate at home, consider trying traditional Latinx or Hispanic dishes from renowned chefs or make it a family affair by reading books about Latinx and Hispanic culture together. If you’re up for an adult reading session, you can explore a book from this curated list of Latinx authors, including the Jenna Bush Hager Book Club pick from March 2021.

And if you’re in a shopping mood and want to show your support with your wallet, check out this list of Latinx-owned beauty brands for a long-lasting commitment to uplifting these businesses.

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Hispanic Heritage Month

In essence, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to recognize and celebrate the rich cultural tapestry of Latinx and Hispanic communities in the United States. It’s an opportunity to learn, appreciate, and participate in events and activities that honor their history, achievements, and contributions to society. Whether you attend cultural festivals, visit museums, or simply cook a traditional Latinx dish at home, the important thing is to join in the celebration and promote understanding and appreciation of this vibrant heritage.

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