SACRAMENTO, California — Every year during September 15 to October 15, we celebrate the contributions that Latino and Hispanic communities – Caribbean, Central and South America, Mexico, and Spain – have made to the United States.
It started as “Hispanic Heritage Week” under President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. Two decades later, President Ronald Reagan signed into law, National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Since September 17, 1968, Hispanic and Latino communities have been nationally recognized for their histories, cultures, and influence. What many may not know is that two Hispanic Congressman, Edward R. Roybal (Democrat–California) and Henry B. Gonzales (Democrat–Texas), helped champion the initial bill that proposed the United States dedicate a week honoring generations of Hispanic and Latino people.
National Hispanic Heritage Month would not have been possible without the help of Rep. Esteban Torres (D-Calif.) who submitted a bill expanding the celebration to 30-days. Although Torres’ bill died, a year later Senator Paul Simon proposed a similar bill that is now observed every year.
It starts mid-September to mark the anniversary of Latin American countries who gained independence in 1821 including, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua. Additionally, Mexico, Chile and Belize also gained independence in late September.
The month is meant to honor the achievement of Hispanic and Latinos.
Most recently, actor Jharrel Jerome became the first Afro-Latino and Dominican to win an Emmy for his role in Netflix’s “When They See Us.” Last year, Bronx-native Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest person in Congress.
Update: Read our follow up story here.
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For National Hispanic Heritage Month, what Hispanic or Latino figure—past or present— should we put a spotlight on? How have they made an impact in your life? Tell us about them.
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