Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.
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.
Here are some fun facts on Hispanic Heritage Month.
Courtsey of Office of Diversity & Inclusion at Georgia Regents University
- 15 was chosen as the starting point for the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18.
- As America’s largest growing ethnic group, about 60 percent of people of Hispanic descent have type O blood compared to 45 percent of Caucasians and 50 percent of African Americans. Type O is the blood hospitals need most.
- With 329 million native speakers, Spanish ranks as the world’s No. 2 language in terms of how many people speak it as their first language. It is slightly ahead of English (328 million) but behind Chinese (1.2 billion).
- The term Hispanic was first adopted by the United States government in the early 1970s, and has since been used in local and federal employment, mass media, academia, and business market research. It has been used in the U.S. Census since 1980. Because of the popularity of “Latino” in the western portion of the United States, the government adopted this term as well in 1997, and used it in the 2000 census.
- There are 1.1 million Hispanic veterans of the U.S. armed forces.
- The term “Hispanic” originally denoted a relationship to Hispania, more commonly known as Portugal and Spain, and the people colonized by those two countries.
- According to the 2010 Census, Hispanics accounted for more than half of the growth in United States population between 2000 and 2010. The U.S. is the fifth largest Hispanic country in the world. The majority of the U.S. population is Mexican American, followed in size by Central and South Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Cuban Americans.
- Spaniards are believed to be the longest continuously established population in Europe.
- Hispanics are not a monolithic group. In reality, some Hispanic subgroups have remarkably few characteristics in common. Various subgroups reflect great differences in ethnicity, culture, origin and can cover the racial spectrum, from white, African American, Asian, Pacific Islander and Native American. Hispanics are a mix of European, African and Native American people.
- The Chicano movement was a civil rights movement that started by looking for the restoration of land grants. The movement expanded to encompass Mexican farm worker’s rights, enhanced education, voting rights and political rights.
- Compared with non-Hispanics, cancer rates among Hispanics are lower overall and lower for the major sites — lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal.
- The Hispanic family is a close-knit group and the most important social unit. The family unit usually extends beyond the nuclear family.
- Hispanics usually place great value on appearance as a sense of honor, dignity and pride.
- Religion plays a significant role in day-to-day life. More than 90 percent of the Spanish-speaking world is Roman Catholic.
- Augustine, Florida, and Sante Fe, New Mexico were Hispanic cities founded before Plymouth, Massachusetts.
- Seventy percent of the Hispanic population lives in five states: California, Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois
- The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed February 2, 1848, ended the Mexican-American War. The United States agreed to pay Mexico $15 million. This agreement also included a territorial settlement in which the United States annexed the northern portion of Mexico, resulting in what is today Texas, New Mexico and California.
- The terms Hispanic and Latino tend to be used interchangeably in the United States for people with origins in Spanish-speaking or Portuguese-speaking countries, like Mexico, Costa Rica, and Brazil. Contrary to many beliefs, Hispanic is not a race, but an ethnicity.
- From 1998 to 1999 to 2008 to 2009, the number of associate’s degrees earned by Hispanics more than doubled (increasing by 101 percent) During the same time period, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded Hispanic students increased by 85 percent