National Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate and reflect on the rich culture of people with Spanish ancestry in the United States. It is also a time to discuss and highlight the challenges that many Hispanic Americans still face, like racism, discrimination, and poverty.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated every September for 30 days. It began in 1968, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a bill that designated the week of Sept. 15 as Hispanic Heritage Week. The observance was lengthened to a month in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. The observance was approved by Public Law 100-402 on August 17, 1988.
Originally, Hispanic Heritage Month was not meant to be an all-encompassing celebration of all things Latino or Hispanic. However, the term Hispanic is generally used to refer to a person’s Spanish or Latin American origin. Hispanic Americans can trace their heritage back to the cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, or from the Spanish explorers who settled in the Americas during the Age of Discovery. Often, these Hispanics are identified by the country of their ancestry, such as Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican or Chilean. However, some people with Hispanic heritage, such as the inhabitants of Easter Island and the inhabitants of the Philippines – both territories of Spain – may not have any particular country of origin.
In 2020, there were an estimated 62 million people in the United States who identified as Hispanic or Latino. With a population of that size, it is important to understand the history and heritage of these individuals, and how they have contributed to society. This includes recognizing the contributions of Hispanics and Latinos in the fields of science, arts, business, politics, sports, and more.
The National Park Service has more than 300 historic sites in the United States that have links to Hispanic heritage and culture. These sites help tell the story of how people from across the nation have come together to build our country.
In addition to celebrating the cultural traditions of people with Hispanic ancestry, the National Park Service is working to amplify the voices of those who are not traditionally seen at heritage events. This is especially important for those communities whose roots are in the African diaspora, such as Afro-Latinos. As the country marks Hispanic Heritage Month, NPR is exploring how we can better honor Black and Indigenous Hispanic and Latinx heritages while addressing challenges that persist in these communities.