National Hispanic Heritage Month

From September 15 to October 15, the United States recognizes National Hispanic Heritage Month. The Hispanic population makes up 18% of the US population, growing from a mere 5% in 1970. That 18% is made up of 57 million people from many different countries.

During the twentieth century, we wrote and talked about the Mexican community, the Puerto Rican population, the Guatemalan culture, and more. So why do we now use the inclusive term “Hispanic?”

Not only have people of Latin American origin grown in population here in the United States over the past several decades but also the immigration of these groups has gotten more attention as the years progressed. In the 1970s, the media started using the “pan-ethnic” term “Hispanic” and slowly stopped using specific national labels. Now, a diverse group of people is frequently clustered into one social category. Despite the fact that roughly ⅔ of the nation’s Hispanic community are people of Mexican origin, we need to understand and appreciate this community is made up of many cultures. As G. Cristina Mora explained in her book, a Hispanic point-of-view could be coming from “Cuban-born businessmen in Miami, undocumented Mexican farmworkers in California, and third-generation part-Puerto Ricans in New York who do not even understand Spanish.”

Now that we know where the term “Hispanic” came from, how does it differ from the term “Latino”? In simple terms, the Hispanic community connects people based on Spanish-speaking origin, so it includes Spain but not Brazil. On the other hand, the community Latino connects people based on Latin American origin, so it includes Brazil but not Spain.

The reason for celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15th is that it includes the independence day of many Latin American countries including:

  • Costa Rica
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Mexico
  • Chile
  • Belize

With a growing population in the US, Hispanic representation in media, pop culture, and the government has grown as well. Here are some of the examples to celebrate:

  • Congressman Joaquin Castro – With 10 years under his belt as a Mexican-American member of the Texas House of Representatives, he assumed the role as Chief Deputy Whip, along with his membership in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.    
  • Actress Gina Rodriguez – As the star of Jane the Virgin, Gina (who is Puerto Rican American) knows that she has “a real responsibility to all the little girls out there to be the story-teller I was born to be.” Not only is the show’s cast mostly Hispanic, but its storyline shows life from just that point-of-view.
  • Professional Baseball Player David Ortiz – Popularly known as “Big Papi,” the Dominican-American was a designated hitter and occasional first baseman who just retired from the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball.

And we’re barely scratching the surface. From music to politics to business, Hispanics are remaking America. During this next month, make sure to take a step back and celebrate the many individuals who are breaking barriers for the Hispanic community nationwide.