Hispanic Heritage Month: The Origins of the Celebration

September 21, 2021 / Mb Staffing

Last Wednesday, September 15 began the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month and will run through October 15, a nod to many of the Latin American countries’—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua—National Independence Day. Mexico’s anniversary of their independence is September 16 and Chile celebrates theirs on September 18, all central near mid-September.

The month-long celebration commemorates the greatest contributions and achievements of culture, art and history from communities of Hispanic descent. It also recognizes the demand of greater inclusion and representation as Latino Americans play an integral part of the American culture.

In fact, the origins of Hispanic Heritage Month are often misrepresented and deprives many members from Latino communities of their contributions to pass the bill beginning in 1988. Mb Staffing would like to honor their heritage by acknowledging the difficult setbacks Latino Americans faced while legislating the 31-day commemoration.

In 1968, Hispanic Heritage Month was only a week-long while President Lyndon Johnson designated the observance to September 15 as “Hispanic Heritage Week.” During an Inaugural Proclamation, President Johnson issued statements praising Hispanic Americans for their contributions to the United States. He wrote, “It is with special pride that I call the attention of my fellow citizens to the great contribution to our national heritage made by our people of Hispanic descent.”

During the short week, the Hispanic Caucus seized the opportunity to take their outreach to public attention, citing Hispanic achievements and stating that they share a legacy with the rest of Americans. Their impact deserves greater inclusion, so it took nearly 20-years for Hispanic Heritage Week to extend to an entire month in 1988.

Initially, in 1987, a House version of the bill was submitted by Representative Esteban Torres but was denied by two sub-committees. According to Robert Lopez, a former intern for the Congressional Caucus that helped lengthen the 7-day observance, “people just didn’t want to support commemorative legislation.”

He added, “People said things like, ‘Well, why would we do that? Aren’t we all American? That’s not a thing we want to support,’” according to the CNN op-ed.

Mr. Lopez previously knew that Black History month took 50 years from 1926 to 1976 for “Negro History Week” to be expanded to a month-long celebration, so he asked for the support of the Black Caucus. He would write ‘Dear Colleague’ letters to other members with a list of notable figures that strengthen the accomplishments to have the bill passed into law. Lopez mentions that this was a great experience of self-discovery to learn of all the Latino history.

The bill that Robert Lopez struggled to pass was amended by the House Gallery on an August morning in 1988. He added that his parents grew up in an area of California where third-generation Mexican-Americans were discriminated for speaking Spanish, where the American norm was imposed upon Mexican immigrants, and they were forced to assimilate to American culture.

The bill was a success for member of the Hispanic community, but awareness of Latino history extends beyond the 31-day observance designated to National Hispanic Heritage Month. To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Mb Staffing wishes to encourage our readers to acknowledge Latino Americans by engaging in books, documentaries and films that recites their history in the United States. Hispanic contributions are forever ingrained in the fabric of American culture, and it is important to listen to our Latino neighbors and visit local museum to learn more about the collection of Hispanic impact.