Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month


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A dancer in traditional Hispanic attire at a celebration in San Francisco (Credit: Carol M. Highsmith / Library of Congress)

National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed annually in the US from September 15th to October 15th. The event honors the histories, cultures, and contributions of American Latinx and Hispanic communities. This includes all residents from — or descendants of someone from — Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. The commemoration began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week. It was expanded to a month by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.

The celebration's dates were selected to coincide with the Independence Days of several Latin American countries. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua all declared independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. Mexico and Chile followed shortly after, on September 16, 1821, and September 18, 1821, respectively.

Hispanic Heritage Month activities center around the annual theme (Credit: Hispanicmoth.net)

Cities and towns across the US celebrate the month with traditional festivals and parades. Schools commemorate the occasion by highlighting the achievements of Latinos and Hispanics. The extensive list includes civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, who dedicated his life to gain better working conditions and fair pay for California farmworkers. Equally inspiring is Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic and the third woman to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

Former NASA astronaut Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1993. She was also NASA's Johnson Space Center's first Hispanic director and second female director. Of course, no mention of Latino achievements can be complete without Lin-Manuel Miranda, the award-winning creator of Broadway shows like Hamilton Hamilton and In The Heights.

The Smithsonian Latino Center (SLC) and other institutions, such as the Museum of Latin Art (MOLAA) and libraries, celebrate this all-important month with educational programs centered around the annual theme. This year's theme, "Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope," encourages Americans to honor past Hispanic contributions and to "reflect on how great our tomorrow can be if we hold onto our resilience and hope."

Happy National Hispanic Heritage Month!

Resources: History.com, Whitehouse.gov, www.wkyc.com


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