Celebrating those of Hispanic heritage can happen any day of the year, but during Hispanic Heritage Month we consciously take a moment to reflect and celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.
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: Hispanic Heritage Month actually began as a commemorative week when it was first introduced in June of 1968 by California Congressman George E. Brown. The push to recognize the contributions of the Latinx community had gained momentum throughout the 1960s when the civil rights movement was at its peak and there was a growing awareness of the United States' multicultural identities.
On September 17, 1968, Congress passed Public Law 90-48, officially authorizing and requesting the president to issue annual proclamations declaring September 15 and 16 to mark the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Week and called upon the “people of the United States, especially the educational community, to observe such week with appropriate ceremonies and activities.” President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first Hispanic Heritage Week presidential proclamation the same day.
In 1987 U.S. Representative Esteban E. Torres of California proposed the expanding the observance to cover its current 31-day period. Torres wanted more time so that the nation could “properly observe and coordinate events and activities to celebrate Hispanic culture and achievement.”
In 1988, Senator Paul Simon (D-Illinois), submitted a similar bill that successfully passed Congress and was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on August 17, 1988. And on September 14, 1989, President George H.W. Bush (who had been a sponsor of the original Hispanic Heritage Week resolution while serving in the House in 1968) became the first president to declare the 31-day period from September 15 to October 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Sources: Department of Education and History.com