“When the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth Rock, Hispanic
civilization was already flourishing in what is now Florida and New
Mexico,” proclaimed President Gerald R. Ford in 1977. “Since
then, the Hispanic contribution to America has been a consistent and
vital influence in our country’s cultural growth.”
Congress, in 1968, authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim
the week that included Sept.15 and 16 as National Hispanic Heritage
Week. President Johnson called upon the people of the United
States to observe this week with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
Why those particular dates? Sept. 15 is the anniversary of
independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and
Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico declared its independence on
Sept.16 and Chile on Sept.18.
Calling it an “honor well deserved,” President Ronald Reagan expanded
the celebration in 1988 by authorizing a Congressional request that
National Hispanic Heritage Week be changed to Hispanic Heritage Month.
Hispanic Heritage Month now runs through Oct. 15 and includes what is
known as Columbus Day in the U.S and as Dia de la Raza or “Day of the
Race” throughout most of Mexico and Latin America.
The day celebrates the many races that are present in the history of
Mexico and Central and South America. These races include some
from Europe such as Spanish, Portuguese and French as well as Native
American tribes like the Maya, the Aztec and the Inca.
Hispanic-Americans are an integral part of America’s culture spanning
from everyday citizens living and breathing the American dream to the
highest branches of the government.
They enhance this nation with contributions to the arts, law, medicine, science, sports and the military.