Hispanic Heritage Month
“The quality that so many Latinas possess is strength,”
“The quality that so many Latinas possess is strength,” says Zoe Saldana, an actress in many movies such as Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy. “I'm very proud to have Latin blood.” This is one message many hold close to their hearts, especially considering the history of how it came to be. Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates those that come from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central/South America by acknowledging their traditions and culture from September 15 to October 15 each year.
“The designated period is also a nod to those from Mexico and Chile, which celebrate their independence September 16 and September 18, respectively.”
Hispanic Heritage Month honors the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua from the United Kingdom. According to an article by the U.S. Department of Commerce, “The designated period is also a nod to those from Mexico and Chile, which celebrate their independence September 16 and September 18, respectively.”
The Hispanic community was first formally recognized in America in the 1960s after their contributions started to be acknowledged. Hispanic Heritage Month was first celebrated in 1968 after George E. Brown, a Congressman, brought light to the topic. President Lyndon B. Johnson then enacted an annual proclamation declaring Spanish Heritage Week. Two decades later, one week was extended to 30 days by President Ronald Reagan.
“The official government website typically keeps a calendar of highlighted activities hosted throughout the United States, from concerts to art festivals and parades.”
Many traditions occur during Hispanic Heritage Month to honor and celebrate Spanish culture. A central tradition is the eating of Hispanic foods, including empanadas (a pastry filled with various ingredients), arepas (a cornmeal pancake that is unleavened), tajadas (ripe plantains that are fried), mole (a spicy Mexican chili sauce), and many other dishes. Jonathan Borge and Samantha Vincenty wrote, “The official government website typically keeps a calendar of highlighted activities hosted throughout the United States, from concerts to art festivals and parades.”
Another tradition involves the clothing people wear. Clothing articles can include flamenco dresses, as well as charros (which are often associated with charreada participants). There are also celebrations in festivals, alongside mariachi performers.
This year, the National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers (NCHEPM), announced the theme of Hispanic Heritage Month to be "Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope." The concept seemed fitting as many individuals celebrated this year.
There are numerous inspirational Hispanic figures that have shaped society in many ways, ranging from politics, education, entertainment, sports, the arts, and others. Some important figures are Ellen Ochoa (the first Hispanic female astronaut) and Cesar Chavez (a significant civil rights activist, labor organizer, and union leader). Chavez also founded the National Farm Workers Association and helped raise pay and improve working conditions for farmworkers.
In addition to these historic Hispanic figures, Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina Justice on the United States Supreme Court. Through her powerful leadership skills, Lauro Cavazos was the first Hispanic to hold a U.S. cabinet position, and Rita Moreno was the first Hispanic-American woman to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. These people are just a few of the many “firsts'' that motivate today’s generation to follow in their footsteps.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of April 2020, the Hispanic community makes up 18.7% of the U.S. population, making it the second-largest racial or ethnic group in the country. The Hispanic community has contributed and continues to contribute greatly to society, and it is well-deserving of a month in its honor. That being said, it is important that we recognize the importance of underappreciated historical Hispanic figures and milestones both during and beyond Hispanic Heritage Month.