5 Facts To Know About National Hispanic Heritage Month
Every year, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the culture, achievements, and impact on U.S. history of people from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South and Central America. Although the observance is popular nation-wide, there is a lot that people may not know about Hispanic Heritage Month.
Read on for five interesting facts surrounding this month-long celebration, below:
1. It has been observed in some form for over 50 years.
Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968 as a shorter celebration, when President Lyndon B. Johnson designated the week of September 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Week. LBJ’s proclamation urged Americans everywhere to observe the "great contribution to our national heritage made by our people of Hispanic descent — not only in the fields of culture, business, and science, but also through their valor in battle."
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded the observance to a full month with a call to recognize how “generations of proud, hardworking, enterprising Hispanic Americans have strengthened our communities and fought for our country. They have believed in America’s miraculous promise and have helped preserve that promise for the future.”
2. It starts in the middle—not the beginning—of September.
Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15 because that date marks the anniversaries of national independence in several Latin American countries. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua all celebrate September 15 as their Independence Day. Mexico’s independence as a nation is celebrated on September 16, and Chile’s is celebrated on September 18.
3. “Hispanic” and “Latino/a/x” refer to different things.
Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, they mean different things.
“Hispanic” refers to someone who comes from, or is a descendant from, a Spanish-speaking country.
"Latinx" (which includes the masculine form "Latino" and feminine form "Latina") refers to someone who comes from or is a descendant from any Latin American Country.
A person may be either Hispanic or Latinx, or both. For example, a person from Spain would be considered Hispanic but does not trace their history back to Latin America. A person from Brazil would be Latinx but may not speak Spanish. Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates people and cultures from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South and Central America, which includes both categories.
4. Many “American” traditions have their roots in Hispanic culture.
It may be surprising to learn how many things in American culture trace back to Hispanic culture. For example, cowboy hats and rodeos originated in Spain and Mexico.
Many city and state names like San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Colorado, and Montana come from Spanish words. The name “Texas” comes from "tejas," the Spanish form of a Native American word.
Even the dollar sign is believed to be related to the Spanish currency that was used in the early American colonies.
And of course, Hispanic culture has had a major influence on American cuisine. For example, salsa overtook ketchup as America’s most popular condiment, nearly 30 years ago. And barbecue, a beloved part of many Texans’ diet, comes from a fusion of Spanish and Caribbean traditions. The word “barbecue” itself comes from the Spanish word “barbacoa.”
5. Hispanic Americans have fought for the U.S. in every American war, dating back to the American Revolution.
Over 1.2 million military veterans in the U.S. are of Hispanic or Latinx descent, according to the Minority Veterans Report published by the Department of Veteran Affairs. Forty-three of these veterans have received the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest decoration given from the U.S. government to members of the armed forces.
For some inspiring stories about Hispanic American military heroes, look here.
Overall, Hispanic Americans make up a large and growing part of the U.S. population (over 18%, according to the 2020 U.S. Census). These numbers represent many diverse Hispanic communities whose men, women, and children have helped to shape America, past and present. Hispanic Heritage Month gives each of us a perfect opportunity to acknowledge their culture, contributions, and individual stories.
Looking for ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month locally? Visit our En Español Campus for a weekend service, or find a list of nearby events and activities, here.