6 Hispanic Heritage Month Facts Students Should Learn About

Hispanic Heritage Month happens every year from September 15 to October 15. Here are six important facts about the culturally significant occasion.

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by Catherine Lafuente

Updated September 23, 2022

Reviewed by Laila Abdalla, Ph.D.

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6 Hispanic Heritage Month Facts Students Should Learn About
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Hispanic Heritage Month Was Once a Week-Long Celebration

On September 17, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Proclamation 3869, officially creating Hispanic Heritage Week. The goal was to honor the positive and widespread impact that people of Hispanic descent have on the United States.

President Johnson's description of the subject's purpose may be seen as racially insensitive by 2022 standards, as it implies that people only have value if they contribute to the U.S., but the intent to celebrate Hispanic heritage was good.

In the proclamation, President Johnson implored people, especially teachers, to create a celebratory curriculum to educate people about Hispanic accomplishments.

This was three months after George E. Brown — a congressman from California — introduced legislation to celebrate such a week, thanks to the Hispanic constituents in his district. Congress passed the bill on September 17, leading to the president's proclamation.

Hispanic Heritage Week Expanded to a Month in 1988

Hispanic Heritage Week became Hispanic Heritage Month under President Ronald Reagan in 1988. This change was initiated by Esteban Torres, another California congressman. He created H.R. 3182, which proposed the extension to a month-long period.

Although this bill didn't make it out of the House of Representatives, Illinois Senator Paul Simon picked up the slack and introduced S. 2200 to the Senate, a comparable piece of legislation. This amended the original bill that first created Hispanic Heritage Week.

Fortunately, this legislation managed to make it to the desk of President Reagan, who signed it on August 17, 1988. And on September 14, 1989, President George H.W. Bush issued Proclamation 6021, making the extension official.

In addition, it's important to note that Hispanic culture is a vital aspect of American culture as a whole. While a month-long celebration is a great way to highlight Hispanic heritage in the U.S., the culture and peoples are worthy of recognition every day of the year.

Five Countries Share September 15 As Their Independence Day

National Hispanic Heritage Month starts in the middle of September and ends in the middle of October. There is a good reason for the September 15 kick-off date.

There are several Latin American countries that observe their Independence Day on this date. They include El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, all of which are located in Central America.

To the north, Mexico celebrates Independence Day on September 16, and to the south, Chile commemorates their sovereignty on September 18. Finally, Dia de la Raza — a decolonized alternative to Columbus Day celebrated by both Mexico and Chile — occurs on October 12.

Hispanic Heritage Month Represents the Culture and Interests of Both Hispanic and Latino/a People

Hispanic Heritage Month also celebrates people living in the United States who have ancestors in the above countries, which is what makes them Hispanic. This term was first coined in the 1970s after the Census was created.

Then in 1976, the U.S. government began collecting data about people's ethnicities, and the term was added on official documents as a recognized category. Later, Latino/Latina emerged as an ethnic descriptor, as some felt Hispanic was too colonized.

There is also Latinx, which rejects the gendered nature of the terms Latino/Latina. However, some people reject Latinx since colonizers of North, Central, and South America brought the letter "x" to the Spanish language.

The terms Hispanic and Latino/a can cover linguistic and geographic origins. Hispanic refers to people who speak Spanish or people from a Spanish-speaking country. Latino/a refers to people specifically from Latin America.

Depending on personal preferences, a person with ties to Hispanic countries can identify with one or both of these terms.

Go to BestColleges Hispanic Heritage Month hub to find more stories and resources.

One in Five People in the United States Identifies As Hispanic

The United States Census Bureau has identified some key facts important to Hispanic Heritage Month. For one, there are about 62.6 million Hispanic people living in the United States — that's one in every five people.

The states with the largest Hispanic population are California, Texas, and Florida. Four out of 10 people are Hispanic in the first two states, and 3 out of 10 are in the latter state. That's more than half of the overall Hispanic population, which is growing every year.

About 13% of everyone (age five or older) in the United States are Spanish speakers as well.

There is a New Theme for Hispanic Heritage Month Every Year

The theme of the 2022 Hipanic Heritage Month is "Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation."

Per the National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers, this theme emphasizes "the need to ensure diverse voices and perspectives are welcomed in decision-making processes, thereby helping to build stronger communities and a stronger Nation."

Irene Matos Chan, who proposed the theme, explained her reasoning. "I am biracial and I wanted to represent my Hispanic culture and the Hispanic countries," Chan revealed. "I want people to connect to their Hispanic culture and show it and express it to their community."