Hoy empieza el Mes de la Herencia Hispana. Se celebra del 15 de septiembre al 15 de octubre cada año en los Estados Unidos (Today begins Hispanic Heritage Month. It is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 each year in the United States). It’s a time to recognize the many contributions that Hispanic Americans have made to the culture and history of the country. In this post we’ll take a look at how this month-long celebration came about and share some resources to help you celebrate and learn some Spanish at the same time!
The history of National Hispanic Heritage Month goes back to 1968. It actually started out as la Semana de la Herencia Hispana (Hispanic Heritage Week). The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Edward R. Roybal from Los Angeles and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Twenty years later, it was expanded to a month from September 15-October 15.
El 15 de septiembre fue elegido como punto de partida para la conmemoración porque es el aniversario de la independencia de cinco países (September 15 was chosen as the starting point for the commemoration because it is the anniversary of the independence of five countries). Those countries are Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico, Chile, and Belize celebrate their independence on the 16th, 18th, and 21st respectively. October 12 also marks the arrival of the Spanish in America.
We’ve covered the various celebrations of independence around Latin America extensively on the blog. Here are some resources you can check out to learn more:
You can also check out a short video I put together while celebrating Mexican Independence Day in my home away from home of Puerto Vallarta:
The Hispanic Community in the US
The Hispanic population in the US has grown rapidly in the last decade, from 50.5 million in 2010 to 62 million in 2020. Back in 1970, Hispanics made up just 5% of the US population. That number is now approaching 20%. They are a major driving force in the overall population growth, as they accounted for 50% of it in the past decade.
California has the largest Hispanic population in the country. As a matter of fact, Latinos are now the largest ethnic group in the nation’s most populous state, with around 15.5 million people. The next two states Texas and Florida, with 11.4 million and 5.7 million respectively. The large increase in the Latino population is due mostly to newborns, as immigration has actually declined in the last decade.
People of Mexican origin are the largest percentage of the Hispanic population in the US, at around 62%. Those of Puerto Rican origin are second at around 6 million, with another 3 million living on the island. Those with origins in Venezuela, Guatemala, and Honduras have seen the fastest growth in the past decade.
As of 2020, four out of five Latinos are US citizens. This includes people born in the US and its territories (every person born in Puerto Rico is a US citizen, for example), people born abroad to American parents, and immigrants who have become naturalized citizens.
By the way, a hot topic of discussion lately has been which term(s) to use to describe this growing segment of the population. While the term “Latinx” has become more common among the general population, it’s actually rarely used by the community it’s meant to describe. A recent Pew survey found that only 3% identify as “Latinx,” while “Hispanic” was by far the most common. Click here to read an interesting article from NPR to learn more.
There are plenty of great resources out there to help you get involved with National Hispanic Heritage Month. Here are just a few of them to get you started:
- National Hispanic Heritage Month: This website has tons of links to various exhibits and collections as well as a large audio/video library, much of which is in Spanish.
- NPR: All month long, NPR will be sharing stories and podcasts highlighting the Hispanic community, including the “El Tiny” takeover of their popular Tiny Desk concert series with artists like J Balvin.
- Smithsonian: The world’s largest museum, education, and research complex has events going on throughout the month.
- National Archives: Here you’ll find plenty of articles, videos, blogs, online exhibits, and much more.
- Latino Americanos: This is a 6-hour documentary from PBS covering the 500+ years of history of the Latino community.
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