In September 1968, Congress authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim National Hispanic Heritage Week, observed during the week that included Sept. 15 and Sept. 16. The observance was expanded in 1989 by Congress to a month long celebration (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), America celebrates the culture and traditions of those who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

Sept. 15 was chosen as the starting point for the celebration because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively.


Honoring ‘The Day of the Race’

The celebration extends into October to mark “El Dia de la Raza,” or “The Day of the Race” on October 12. “El Dia de la Raza” is observed throughout most of Mexico and Latin America. The day celebrates the many nationalities—a people having a common beginning, tradition, or language—that are present in the history of Mexico, Central America, and South America. These nationalities include Native Americans such as the Mayas, Aztecs and Incas; and European nationalities such as Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

Famous Hispanic Americans

From sports to government to entertainment and science, Hispanic Americans have played important roles in America’s history, its values, and culture. They include Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, baseball star Alex Rodriguez, actors George Lopez, journalist Geraldo Rivera, actresses America Ferrera and Selena Gomez, astronauts Michael Lopez-Alegria and Ellen Ochoa and authors Isabel Allende and Julia Alvarez. As of 2002, more than 63,000 people were on active duty in the Armed Forces according to the U.S. Census.