Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15-October 15, honors the diverse people of Spanish-speaking backgrounds in the United States — those who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.
Special programs, events, exhibits and websites celebrate the culture, traditions and extraordinary contributions of the 50 million Hispanics who constitute the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the United States, according to the Census Bureau. In addition, there are about 4 million residents of Puerto Rico, a Caribbean U.S. territory.
The Hispanic population is projected to nearly triple to almost 133 million by 2050, and will jump from 16 percent to 30 percent of the U.S. population. Two-thirds of Hispanic-origin people in the United States are of Mexican background. Next in line are people of Puerto Rican, Cuban, Salvadoran and Dominican backgrounds.
THE STORY OF AMERICA ITSELF
Today, more than ever, Hispanic Americans play an integral role in shaping the American experience. Hispanics serve on the U.S. Supreme Court and in two Cabinet posts (Labor and Interior). The influence of Hispanic culture is reflected in every aspect of American life, from politics to education, music and television.
“The story of Hispanics in America is the story of America itself,” says President Obama. “The Hispanic community’s values — love of family, a deep and abiding faith, and a strong work ethic — are America’s values.”
The president says that Hispanics have served with honor and distinction in the armed services and have enriched U.S. culture in every arena, “from sports to the sciences and from the arts to our economy.”
The Census Bureau, for example, reports that there are more than 2.3 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States. That number jumped 43.6 percent between 2002 and 2007. In the United States, Hispanic buying power is growing faster than that of non-Hispanics.
HONORING HISPANIC CULTURE
The celebration of Hispanic heritage began on a national scale in 1968 with a weeklong celebration. The designated week was selected to coincide with Independence Day celebrations on September 15 in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, September 16 in Mexico and September 18 in Chile. In 1988, President Reagan approved a law expanding the celebration to a month, running from September 15 to October 15.
In addition to officials leading events and participating in conferences, the White House will feature Hispanics from throughout the Administration who are contributing to the President’s vision for winning the future in a daily blogpost on “Renewing the American Dream”.
Also, a number of U.S. government agencies celebrate the month with special events and projects.
The U.S. Library of Congress has a Web page dedicated to Hispanic Heritage Month. The library is also sponsoring the creation of an oral history of America, and one initiative — StoryCorps Historias — focuses specifically on recording the diverse stories and life experiences of Latinos in the United States. Its Veterans History Project site features pages devoted to Hispanics in Service and Experiencing War.
The Smithsonian Institution, headquartered in Washington, has created the Smithsonian Latino Center to develop Latino-themed programs and exhibits for national and international audiences. Consult the Smithsonian’s complete schedule of Hispanic Heritage Month programming.
Another agency celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is the National Park Service, which tells the story of Freedom Tower, the entry point for thousands of exiled Cubans into Miami, now a national historic landmark.
Also explore Hispanics in U.S. Culture