Rita Moreno. Frida Kahlo. Roberto Clemente. Sonia Sotomayor. Lin-Manuel Miranda. Cesar Chavez. Sensing a theme? I can go on, as you most likely have added your own names to the list as well. So, what do they all have in common, other than being famously known figures of history? They are all Hispanic-Americans. Happy National Hispanic Heritage Month everybody!
Starting September 15th and continuing until October 15th, Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans on our national zeitgeist. Whether it be through military service, political status, or artistic influence, the cultural landscape of the United States would not be the same without these amazing people. The nations oldest city, St. Augustine, FL, was founded by Spanish explorers in 1565; and its Spanish Colonial architecture is still a draw for tourists. Now think about the Southwestern United States. Many of the states we now know began as Spanish provinces. Through city names, architecture, and cuisine, their rich ethnic heritage permeates through the Southwest landscape and beyond. What is probably most amazing about the Hispanic American immersion is that it exemplifies that which America is all about: The pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. Anything is possible here, and that can be seen in their reflections.
But why is National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrated from the 15th through 15th instead of a calendar month? Well, in 1821 five different Hispanic countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua all declared independence. Quickly following suit, Mexico, Chile, and Belize declared on September 16, 18, and 21 respectively. Proclaimed by President Johnson in 1968, this celebration started out as a week-long commemoration. It was not until 1989 that President George H.W. Bush signed Proclamation 6021 making a National Hispanic Heritage Month.
So next time you think of the leaders and role models for math, education, music, business, or pop culture, know there is a Ruth Gonzalez, Antonia Pantoja, Carlos Santana, Carlos Slim, and Pablo Picasso waiting for you to champion.