Today officially kicks off the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, in which we will see many festivals and vibrant activities celebrating the Latino community all around the United States. Initiated originally by Congressman George E. Brown in 1968 out of California, Hispanic Heritage started off as a week to acknowledge Hispanic and Latino contributions to American society and culture. Congressman Brown’s championing to recognize the important role that Latinos play in the U.S. was also supported by Hispanic Congressmen Edward R. Roybal and Henry B. Gonzales, whose push for such recognition led to the introduction of Joint Resolution 1299 in June of 1968. The resolution was the beginning of new legislation which came with the passing of Public Law 90-48 which authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to officially declare the week of September 15th and 16th Hispanic Heritage Week. The historic proclamation was announced on September 17, 1968.
Within the proclamation, Johnson praises the contributions of Hispanics and Latinos and acknowledges the independent day celebrations from Central American countries and Mexico that respectively take place September 15th and 16th, and officially proclaims:
“Now, Therefore, I, Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the week beginning September 15, 1968, as National Hispanic Heritage Week, and I call upon the people of the United States, especially the educational community, to observe that week with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this seventeenth day of September, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and sixty-eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and ninety-third.”
In 1987, United States representative Esteban E. Torres pushed for expanding the week-long celebration to a month, which was also supported by Senator Paul Simon out of Illinois. In August of 1988, President Ronald Reagan then signed a new bill into law re-introducing Hispanic Heritage Week as Hispanic Heritage Month extending it to October 15th. The following year, President George H.W. Bush officially announced Proclamation 6021, which reads as follows:
Now, Therefore, I, George Bush, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the month beginning September 15, 1989, and ending October 15, 1989, as National Hispanic Heritage Month. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies and activities, and I urge them to reaffirm their devotion to the principles of freedom and individual dignity — the common heritage of all Americans.”
Since then, the Hispanic community has gone to great lengths to recognize and celebrate our Heritage Month. The recognition also coincides with the Independence Day celebrations of Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala on September 15th, and Mexico’s Independence Day celebration on September 16th. Also included in the month-long celebration is Chile’s Independence Day celebrated September 18th. All countries simultaneously celebrated freedom from Spain, except Belize who became independent from the United Kingdom.
As we Latinos gather around to celebrate our cultural history this month, take note there are plenty of fun activities to get involved within our local communities. Many local cities hold Fiestas Patrias celebrations to commemorate independence and month-long activities with parades, music, food, cultural demonstrations, speaking engagements, lectures, educational activities, and dancing. Don’t hesitate to celebrate your Hispanic Heritage, and get involved with activities that will surely enrich your cultural identity.
Click here to learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month.