Americans celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month between September 15th and October 15th every year. This is a time to recognize the contributions of Hispanics to our world’s culture and history as well as to celebrate their lively culture and beautiful language.
Hispanic Heritage celebrations begin on September 15th, which is the anniversary of the declaration of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Two other Hispanic countries—Mexico and Chile—celebrate their independence on September 16th. Another important date is October 12th, which is El Día de la Raza, or “The Day of the Race.” This is when people with historical and cultural ties to Spain, Mexico, Central America, and South America—including those with Mayan, Aztec, and Inca ancestry—celebrate their heritage.
Hispanics were some of the earliest people to explore and settle in the New World, including what is now the United States. The first settlement in the U.S. was made in 1565 by Spanish conquistadors in St. Augustine, Florida. Several explorers from Spain, including Ponce de Leon, Cortés, Pizarro, Vasquez de Coronado, and Hernando de Soto discovered parts of North and South America that led to further development of Spanish countries.
The Spanish language and Hispanic culture are still very evident today, and they continue to expand around the world, especially in North and South America. The Hispanic population in the United States is growing every year. Although the population of the U.S. is made up of people from countries around the world, the Spanish language and different Hispanic cultures have greatly influenced our American culture and way of life.
In 1980, fourteen million Hispanics lived in the U.S, which was about 6% of the country’s overall population. However, in 2014, that number grew to 55 million Hispanics—over 17% of the U.S. population. Some of our states and cities are named after Spanish words, like Florida, Colorado, Amarillo, Boca Raton, San Diego, and Los Angeles, to name a few.
There’s no doubt that learning about and celebrating Hispanic language and culture is essential to our future. Learning about the differing Hispanic cultures and appreciating their way of life—their music, art, food, and religion—can only lead to more tolerance and acceptance for an ever-growing segment of our population.