Americans recognize National Hispanic Heritage Month annually through a celebration of the rich history, colorful culture, and fundamental contributions of more than 60 million Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Hispanic Heritage Month stretches from September 15 to October 15. September 15 signifies the day that five Latin American countries gained independence in 1821: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. During this month, Mexico also celebrates its Independence Day on September 16, and Chile celebrates the day they gained independence from Spain on September 18.
Hispanic and Latino: What’s the Difference?
A Hispanic or Latinx person can be of any race or color, and there are several ways in which a person may choose to identify. The term Latinx is frequently used as a gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina. Although there may sometimes be overlap, the two terms are not always used interchangeably. WBD composed a general reference below, though information may vary among sources.
Hispanic refers to a person who is from, or a descendant of someone who is from, a Spanish-speaking country. This term refers to the language spoken.
Latino/a or Latinx refers to a person who is from, or a descendant of someone who is from, a country in Latin America. These terms relate to geography – some countries will not have Spanish as their official language.
The History Behind Hispanic Heritage Month
Hispanic Heritage Month originally started as Hispanic Heritage Week in June 1968 when it was introduced by Congressman George E. Brown under President Lyndon Johnson. The peak of the civil rights movement during the 1960s sparked a growing awareness of multicultural identities within the U.S. and an increased push to recognize the influence of the Latinx community in shaping our Nation. When Johnson signed this bill, Public Law 90-498, into action he acknowledged the “great contribution to our national heritage made by our people of Hispanic descent — not only in the fields of culture, business, and science, but also through their valor in battle.” They have fought in every war since the American Revolution and have played an integral role in our society as business owners, teachers, public servants and much more.
On August 17, 1988, President Ronald Reagan passed Public Law 100-402 extending Hispanic Heritage Week into Hispanic Heritage Month to further honor America’s Hispanic and Latin American roots. Since then, we have celebrated this holiday nationwide through activities including concerts, parades, festivals, and art shows that highlight Hispanic culture.
The 2021 Hispanic Heritage Month national theme is “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.” This theme centered on Esperanza or hope reflects hope for a brighter future.
Observing Hispanic Heritage Month
Hispanic Heritage Month is not only an opportunity for the Hispanic and Latinx community to reinforce their accomplishments, but also a time for all Americans to educate themselves and emphasize the great contributions of Hispanic Americans which make up 18.7% of the U.S. population. People of Hispanic origin are now the nation’s largest minority group and have consistently helped our country strengthen and prosper.
“We benefit from the many contributions of Hispanic scientists working in labs across the country to help us fight COVID-19 and the doctors and the nurses on the front lines caring for people’s health. Our Nation is represented by Hispanic diplomats who share our values in countries all over the world and strengthened by military members and their families who serve and sacrifice for the United States. Our communities are represented by Hispanic elected officials, and our children are taught by Hispanic teachers. Our future will be shaped by Hispanic engineers who are working to develop new technology that will help us grasp our clean energy future and by the skilled union workers who are going to build it.”
White House, “A Proclamation on National Hispanic Heritage Month, 2021” September 14, 2021
At WBD, we stand with our clients in honoring the immeasurable achievements of Hispanic Americans who have positively enriched our economy, culture, and society. This year, FEMA’s Hispanic-Latino Employee Resource Group is partnering with the Office of Equal Rights to host a Hispanic Heritage Month Event and encourage its community to learn more about Hispanic and Latinx contributions to the United States and to FEMA’s mission of helping people before, during, and after disasters.
WBD proudly values diversity and fosters a culture of inclusivity within our firm which is made up of all different backgrounds and experiences. We understand the importance of cross-cultural awareness and appreciation and encourage you to participate in Hispanic Heritage Month, educate each other, and spread positivity about other cultures. To learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month, visit the National Archives or Library of Congress which include research guides, public laws, and other resources related to the celebration.
Author: Hannah Lopez, Senior Associate at WBD, is an IT data analytics professional engaged with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).