Hispanic Heritage Month begins Sept. 15

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Andrea Arango Arroyave
  • Hispanic Heritage Special Observance Committee

Every year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct.15. The month celebrates the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

National Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson. President Ronald Reagan lengthened the observance to cover a 30-day period in 1988. It was enacted into law on Aug. 17, 1988, per Public Law 100-402.

Many people wonder why National Hispanic Heritage Month is split between two months. The reason is there were significant victories observed within the months of September and October for the Hispanic/Latinx communities. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua celebrate their independence on Sept. 15; Mexico on Sept.16; and Chile on Sept. 18. In addition, Columbus Day or DĂ­a de la Raza is celebrated on Oct. 12.

Did You Know
• There are about 62.5 million Hispanics in the U.S., making up 19% of the total population, according to Pew Research Center findings in 2022.

• The U.S. does not have an official language. Google it if you don’t believe it. Nearly 13% of its population speaks Spanish at home. English takes the top spot as the most spoken language in the U.S. with 254 million speakers, followed by it is 43 million Spanish speakers and nearly three million Chinese speakers. Forbes reported one in three people will speak Spanish by 2050.

• Hispanic people have a long history of advancing humankind through their inventions. Below is a short list of their contributions:

Color television Biometrics The laryngoscope
Earthquake sensor technology X-Ray reflection microscope Incubators and portable respirators for premature babies
The artificial heart pacemaker Birth control pills Beauty blenders
CAPTCHA Artificial heart Electric brakes
First electrical submarine The e-book Transdermal drug patches

Hispanic vs. Latino
The terms "Hispanic" and "Latino" refer to ethnicity, culture, and identity. They are groups based on shared culture rather than skin color, race, or other physical features.

Hispanic: Refers to people who speak Spanish or who have a background in a Spanish-speaking country. In other words, Hispanic refers to the language that a person speaks or that their ancestors spoke. Some Hispanic people speak Spanish, but others do not.

Latino: In contrast, Latino refers to geography: specifically, people from Latin America including Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Like being Hispanic, Latino speaks nothing about your race. Latinos may be White, Black, Indigenous, Asian, etc.

A person who is Latino may or may not be Hispanic. For instance, while people from Brazil are considered Latino (because Brazil is a Latin American country), they are not considered Hispanic because Brazil is a former Portuguese colony, not a Spanish one.

People who are Black and Latino often identify as Afro-Latino, while other Black people of Latin American descent forego the Latino/Hispanic labels all together.

For more information about Hispanic Heritage Month, visit HispanicHeritageMonth.gov.