We know of Hispanic Heritage Month, but what do we know about its origins?
It all began on June 11, 1968, when California Congressman George E. Brown introduced H.J. Res. 1299 to the House of Representatives as National Hispanic Heritage Week, which included the dates of September 15 and 16. Brown’s district included different parts of Los Angeles, which all had large Hispanic populations, and he wanted to honor the people in his community. It wasn’t until three months later, on September 17, 1968, that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Public Law 90-498 to make it official.
We started with just a week, and it turned into a month, which begs the question: how did we get there? In 1988, California Representative Esteban Torres put forth a bill to expand National Hispanic Heritage Week to National Hispanic Heritage Month. Unfortunately, the bill died in committee. Soon after, Senator Paul Simon of Illinois submitted a similar bill that passed through Congress. On August 17, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed Public Law 100-402 recognizing September 15 to October 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month.
One might wonder why this month of recognition starts in the middle of September. It has everything to do with the history of certain countries' Independence Days. September 15 coincides with the independence of five countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.
As for the importance of September 16, the Mexican War of Independence began on September 16, 1810. More so, Chile declared its independence from Spain on September 18, 1810, and Belize was successful in breaking free from Great Britain’s rule on September 21, 1981.
There you have it! The fascinating history of Hispanic Heritage Month.