Since 1988, from September 15 to October 15, the United States recognizes the contributions and the unique influence of Hispanic Americans to the Nation. The value in the community’s history, culture, and achievements to better the country began to be acknowledged in 1968 when the month-long celebration was just a week -- yes! It all started as Hispanic Heritage Week.
Rep. Edward R. Roybal of Los Angeles sponsored legislation that President Lyndon Johnson later signed into law to designate a week to appreciate the Spanish-speaking community. Knowing seven days wasn’t enough, in 1987, Representative Esteban Torres of California submitted another bill to request the expansion of Hispanic Heritage Week into a Hispanic Heritage Month. “[I] want the American people to learn of our heritage,” said Torres. “We want the public to know that we share a legacy with the rest of the country, a legacy that includes artists, writers, Olympic champions, and leaders in business, government, cinema, and science.”
The month-long celebration that was amended by Senator Paul Simon and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan had the intention of “allow our Nation to properly observe and coordinate events and activities to celebrate Hispanic culture and achievement.” Senator Simon of Illinois continued pushing for this law and submitted a similar bill. Later Representative Dale Kildee of Michigan paid tribute to Hispanic-Americans by saying that during Hispanic Heritage Month, “we are also commemorating the growth of our Nation’s culture, vastly broadened and enriched by its Hispanic citizens.”
Over the next four weeks we celebrate #HispanicHeritageMonth. We are so fortunate for the tremendous contributions of the Hispanic community which have enriched CA-15 and our nation. We are made greater by our diversity. pic.twitter.com/FZn6tlBBAN— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) September 15, 2020
Traditionally, many annual events are held across the nation, from the U.S. Army commemorating the remarkable contributions of Hispanics defending the nation, and the United States Navy celebrating and honoring sailors of Hispanic heritage, to the hundreds of festivals like the annual Northwest Arkansas Hispanic Heritage Festival held in Arkansas, as well as El Barrio Latin Jazz festival in The Bronx.
To kick off #HispanicHeritageMonth, lets look at a Soldier who went above and beyond the call of duty. #MedalofHonor Recipient: Sergeant First Class Leroy A. Petry— U.S. Army (@USArmy) September 15, 2020
Learn more of his story at https://t.co/T1XuIap9Se pic.twitter.com/KXRyx2kBcN
The Smithsonian Institution also hosts Hispanic Heritage Month events in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, most events have been canceled or held virtually.
Celebrate #HispanicHeritageMonth by exploring our @SmithsonianLab collection based on our book #NuestraAmérica. These bilingual educational resources highlight the inspiring stories of Latinas and Latinos who have shaped our nation’s history. https://t.co/5vtgEo53dM pic.twitter.com/BsgWLZF6pv— Smithsonian Latino Center (@SLC_Latino) September 15, 2020
The White House also released a statement to ratify Hispanic Heritage Month and the importance of honor, celebrate and support the community. “We celebrate the countless contributions of more than 60 million Hispanic Americans to our culture and society,” said the announcement. “Hispanic Americans are the largest minority group in the United States today, and generations of Hispanic Americans have consistently helped make our country strong and prosperous. They contribute to our Nation beyond description. Hispanic Americans embody the best of our American values, including commitment to faith, family, and country. They serve in our military and protect us as members of law enforcement. The Hispanic-American community has left an indelible mark on our government, culture, and economy.”