The month of September is recognized in the United States as National Hispanic Heritage Month, and it celebrates the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans to our country’s history, culture, and achievements. The contributions of Hispanic Americans have been significant in so many fields, from science to the arts.
The largest Hispanic group is people of Mexican heritage, with nearly 60% of the population. People of Puerto Rican and Dominican origin make up the next largest group. People of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras each have one million or more residents. As of 2016, the total number of Hispanics in the U.S. was estimated to be at least fourteen million.
The first census of Latinos was conducted in 1930, and recorded all Latinos as “Mexican.” Beginning in the 1970s, the Census Bureau began asking Latinos to self-identify as one of six categories. In doing so, hundreds of thousands of white Americans were mistakenly identified as Central or South American.
The term Hispanic is often used interchangeably with Latino. People who are Hispanic are people with Spanish-speaking origins. People who have Spanish-language heritage come from all over Latin America. In Virginia, the Hispanic population is approximately 10.6% of the state’s total population. Although a majority of Latino Virginians were born in the United States, a growing percentage of Latino Virginians are foreign-born. Most Latino Virginians are from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
This month celebrates Hispanic heritage by honoring the contributions of Latino people in the United States. Hispanic Heritage Month was first observed in 1968 as a weeklong commemoration. It was later extended to four weeks in 1988. It starts on the 15th of September, the day of independence in five Latin American countries. Chile and Belize follow on the 18th.
In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first Presidential Proclamation, calling for the U.S. government to celebrate Hispanic heritage. It was expanded to a full month in 1988 by President Reagan. He also called for more recognition of Hispanic Americans in education. He also signed Public Law 100-402 to encourage more people to learn Spanish and to speak English.
The Latin American Studies Association has announced a new cultural center in Pittsburgh. The center will host a diverse range of events, including lectures and performances, as well as exhibits. It will also include meeting rooms for small conferences. This will be an exciting new initiative in Pittsburgh for Latinx students and the region.
Greg Pardo is a native of San Antonio, Texas. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 1985. In 1998, he joined the Department of State. He is the son of Irene Buentello and Rebecca Dockery. He is part of a large Hispanic family. His parents and grandparents were Hispanic immigrants. In addition, he has been active in public service for over 50 years.