Art & Culture

Hispanic Heritage Month: What do we celebrate and why?

Hispanic Heritage Month

Every year from September 15 to October 15, we celebrate the Hispanic Heritage Month, an event that honors the contribution and influence of people of Hispanic origin to the culture and development of the United States. 

During this time, schools, universities, libraries, and non-profit organizations in the United States carry out different activities that help identify, promote, and disseminate the idiosyncrasies of Latin American countries on US territory.

And what is Latin America? The RSA defines it as the set of American countries in which languages originating from Latin are mostly spoken (Spanish, Portuguese and French) or as the set of American countries that were colonized by Latin nations (Spain, Portugal, and France).

A Presidential initiative

It all started with a proposal by Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) to proclaim Hispanic Heritage Week in which Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua celebrate their independence on September 15; Mexico, on September 16, and Chile on September 18. The initiative was approved by Congress in 1968.

The official recognition came twenty years later, when President Ronald Reagan’s administration (1911-2004) wanted to make a strong call for Hispanic recognition, extending the celebration to a month through the Public Law 100-402 promulgated on August 17, 1988. And that’s how Hispanic Heritage Month was born.

Hispanic and Latino are not the same 

These two terms are often confused and it is worth clarifying: A Hispanic is a person whose native language is Spanish or who is a descendant of a Spanish-speaking country. Instead, a Latino is someone who comes from a Latin American country. 

For example, a Brazilian is Latino, but not Hispanic, because he does not speak Spanish but Portuguese, just like a Haitian because he speaks Creole and French. An Argentine is Hispanic and Latino since he speaks Spanish and his country is located in Latin America.

Perhaps the confusion between Hispanic and Latino comes from when we study world’s geography, since the number of continents varies according to the country in which it is studied. There are different models, the best known are:

  • 7 continents: It is used by English-speaking countries such as the United States and lists North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania (or Australia), and Antarctica.
  • 6 continents: The most popular in Spanish-speaking countries and does not divide America into North and South, but unifies it. America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania and Antarctica.
  • 5 continents: America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. This model is used by the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee.
hispanic heritage dance - Hispanic Heritage Month: What do we celebrate and why?

Hispanic heritage on the rise

The large number of Hispanics living in the United States is undeniable and unstoppable. 

In 2019, the Hispanic population was 60.572.237 people, 20% more than 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

And by 2060 it is estimated that it will reach 128.8 million people, which by that date will be approximately 31% of the US population.

There are many ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, from cooking the typical dishes of your country of origin to helping your children with the school project. And you? How do you celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?

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