The History of Hispanic Heritage Month
All About Hispanic Heritage Month
America has celebrated the cultural treasures of Hispanic people from mid-September to mid-October every year since 1989.
Although we should value the traditions and cultural treasures of Hispanic people on a year-round basis, Hispanic Heritage Month — celebrated in the U.S. from September 15 to October 15 — is a time to shine a spotlight on the deep-rooted history of Hispanics in America as well as an opportunity to celebrate their contributions and customs.
Early Days of Hispanic Heritage Month
When Hispanic Heritage Month was initially coming together it wasn’t even a month long. President Gerald R. Ford had proclaimed the week of September 15 to be a time when the U.S. celebrates Hispanic culture with appropriate ceremonies and events. This was an effort to educate the American people more thoroughly of the traditions that are valued in its neighboring countries.
However, within 15 years of National Hispanic Heritage Week becoming actualized, in 1989 the celebration extended into mid-October to create a month-long event that is still observed today. The annual tradition begins in the middle of the month because it coincides with national independence days in multiple Latin American countries: Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica celebrate theirs on September 15; Mexico on September 16; Chile on September 18; and Belize on September 21.
El Día de la Raza
The elongation of Hispanic Heritage Month, however, was no accident. The commemorations were intentionally extended to October 15 in order to include the holiday El Día de la Raza or Day of the Race, which is celebrated in many Latin American countries (particularly in Mexico) on October 12. It is similar to America’s recognition of Columbus Day since it marks the day Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492. But the history behind the holiday is different. Countries like Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, even Uruguay and Venezuela all mark the day as the celebration of the Hispanic heritage of Latin America.
The most important thing to celebrate for Hispanic Heritage Month, however, is community. Each year, local communities host a slew of events to commemorate the rich culture of Spanish-speaking people whether it be with traditional dances, small marches in the city, informational seminars or outdoor food festivals. Speaking of food… it’s the great unifier and one of best ways to get acquainted with (and appreciate) any culture.