Hispanic Heritage Month
National Hispanic Heritage Month is the period from September 15 to October 15, when the American people recognize Hispanic and Latino Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America, and celebrate their histories, cultures and contributions to the nation's well-being.
President Lyndon B. Johnson started Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 when by a joint resolution Congress approved Public Law 90-498 on September 17, 1968, which authorized and requested the President to issue an annual proclamation designating the week, including September 15 and 16, as National Hispanic Heritage Week. Twenty years later, President Ronald Reagan requested Congress to expand it so that it would cover a 31-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.
This 31-day period encompasses the celebrations of Columbus Day or Dia de La Raza (October 12), the anniversary of independence of five Central American Countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua) on September 15, Mexico on September 16, Chile on September 18, and Belize on September 21.
Hispanic Heritage Month also celebrates the long and important presence of Hispanic Americans in North America, starting with the discovery of America by Spanish conquistadors led by Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492. A map of late 18th century North America shows this presence, from the small outpost of San Francisco founded in the desolate wilderness of Alta California in 1776, through the Spanish province of Texas with its vaqueros (cowboys), to the fortress of St. Augustine, Florida — the first continuous European settlement in North America, founded in 1565, decades before Jamestown, Virginia.
Spanish explorers traveled further north along the Pacific Coast to Canada in 1774 and by the late 18th century had established a military post on Vancouver Island, 350 miles north of Seattle. The Spanish sailed up the Atlantic Coast through the Chesapeake Bay in 1526, then called the Bahía de Santa María, about 80 years before the romanticized English encounter with Pocahontas. In the 1520s Spanish navigators also explored as far north as Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and the present site of Bangor, Maine. The Spanish settled the future southwestern United States in the 16th century and officially founded Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1610.
As part of the Treaty of Paris (1763) peace settlement of the French and Indian War, the territories west of the Mississippi River, including Louisiana and New Orleans, were ceded to the Spanish.
This year's theme best characterizes the character, values and uniqueness of Hispanic/Latino Americans:
"Many Backgrounds, Many Stories...One American Spirit."