What is Hispanic Heritage Month?

From September 15th to October 15th, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month as a way to acknowledge the significance of the Hispanic and Latino American cultures in the United States. This month is a time to recognize and reflect on the many valuable and lasting contributions of each rich heritage and the influence they represent on the American way of life. Unlike many similar month-long celebrations, this one does not start at the beginning of the month but in the middle, and for good reason. September 15th commemorates the independence of five Latin American countries, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, the countries of Mexico, Chile, and Belize celebrate their own independence.

Hispanic Heritage Month started as a single week in 1968 established under President Lyndon Johnson’s Administration and was later expanded to an entire month in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan as a way to honor American citizens of Hispanic and Latino descent who made their mark on this country. During the month, there are a wide array of community festivals and celebrations all across the nation as well as government-sponsored events at the local, state, and federal levels. Most important, many states provide educational-awareness activities for students in schools to teach about the men and women who made a tremendous impact on the United States through their work and advocacy to advance the presence of Hispanic and Latino cultures in America.

Today, Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated throughout the United States, Latin America, and Canada and is punctuated by Columbus Day on October 12th. His contributions in the discovery of America are a major aspect of the celebration that takes place during this month and, although a controversial figure, his impact and presence for the founding of the very first European settlement in North America provided the stepping stone for the achievements of so many others who came after him.

To meet the growing educational needs of Hispanics in the United States, President George H.W. Bush instituted awards to agencies that support educational opportunities for Hispanics. The Bright Spot Award for Educational Excellence for Hispanics was started and is still provided today.

The Latino Family Literacy Project is a BRIGHT SPOT award-winner for its focus on programs to help Latino parents learn to read to their children, and learn strong language and vocabulary skills together with their kids. The first step to an effective parent involvement program is for teachers to register for a workshop and attend program training to understand effective ways to work with the Hispanic population at school.