September 15, 2020

What Hispanic Heritage Month means and how anyone can celebrate it

By Austa Somvichian-Clausen

In 2019 the U.S. Hispanic population reached a record high of 60.6 million, up by nearly a million from the previous year according to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates. In fact, in the last decade, the Latinx share of the country’s total population increased 2 percent from 16 percent to 18 percent, accounting for more than 50 percent of all U.S. population growth. They’re now the country’s second largest racial or ethnic group, following white non-Hispanics.

It’s surprising, then, that the annual observance of National Hispanic Heritage month is still relatively unknown. Traditionally, the monthlong celebration is meant to honor the cultures and contributions of both Hispanic and Latino Americans.

“Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America,” it reads on the official government website.

Why does Hispanic Heritage Month start halfway through September?

President Johnson first signed the National Hispanic Heritage Week bill into law in 1968, writing that he wished “to pay special tribute to the Hispanic tradition,” with the knowledge that “our five Central American neighbors celebrate their Independence Day on the fifteenth of September and the Republic of Mexico on the sixteenth.” Those five countries include Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, which all gained their independence from Spain in 1821.