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The next month marks the 44th celebration of a “Hispanic Heritage” event once known as “Hispanic Heritage Week!” This celebration of Hispanic and Latine culture, history, and contributions to the world began in 1968 as a mere week, and has since evolved into something much bigger.

As a Hispanic content creator, I have very mixed feelings about the work asked of people like me during this month, but I adore the actual festivities and the fascinating history behind the event. So, with that in mind, I’m sharing some history and why it’s important to celebrate.

Hispanic Heritage Month: Map of Central America

The history of Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15th. Choosing September 15th as the first day of the month may strike some as odd but there’s a reason for this. September 15th was not randomly chosen by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, but was the date he decided to commemorate because of its significance in Central American history. 

Multiple nations in Central America, specifically Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, celebrate their independence on September 15th. The reason for this is that in 1821 the Captaincy General of Guatemala declared independence from Spain and included in it were its neighbors, the aforementioned nations, which were all part of the Captaincy General of Guatemala. The Captaincy General of Guatemala was itself an administrative division of the Spanish Empire, which was itself part of New Spain.

While there was a brief period between 1821 and the early 1820s when Central America was part of the Mexican Empire, desires for independence were quickly recognized and the future nations of Central America were granted their full independence in 1823. In 1823 the Federal Republic of Central America was formed, a union that survived until the 1840s though not without difficulties all its own. 

Other dates of note relevant to Hispanic Heritage Month include September 16th, September 18th, and October 12th. These dates are the days that Mexican independence, Chilean independence, and Dia De La Raza are celebrated respectively. 

Hispanic Heritage Month was originally Hispanic Heritage Week, and was just a week-long celebration from 1968 until 1988. On August 17th, 1988 President Ronald Reagan approved Public Law 100-402. This law turned Hispanic Heritage Week into Hispanic Heritage Month. 

Why celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?

The contributions of Hispanic Americans to the United States are tremendous. Some examples include the countless Hispanic Americans who join the military, or the creative contributions to American literature by Hispanic American authors.

There are obviously many noteworthy reasons to celebrate the works of Hispanic Americans. And this isn’t even beginning to dive into the contributions of Hispanic Americans to theater, television, video games, and other forms of entertainment! 

In addition to this, speaking as someone who is proud to be Hispanic-American months like Hispanic Heritage Month give Hispanic American people somewhat of a reprieve from a constant tsunami of anti-Hispanic, bigoted sentiment.

Why do I celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?

I celebrate this month partially because I desire to see my family and friends have and celebrate a positive self-image. As a Hispanic-American, this seemingly small desire can prove difficult at times.

I love my family and racial community as a Puerto Rican, as well as all of Latin America, and Hispanic Heritage Month is a way to celebrate that. I was raised in Colombia, Honduras, and Panama, as well as the United States. Going beyond all of that, I even visited El Salvador during my teenage years as a high-schooler in Honduras, where I gained some of my passion for history and culture. 

I love Latin America and I have devoted extensive parts of my career to advocating for Hispanic and Latin-American people. I have even done this during times when doing so was difficult and involved engaging with people who’d rather I have not been advocating for my communities, my family, and my friends.

This will continue to be a part of my career and my life moving forward because my cultural identity as a Puerto-Rican person has shaped every part of my life. I also know I’m far from alone in this. 

My goals for this Hispanic Heritage Month

During this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, I’ll be highlighting the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the beautiful cultural tapestry of the United States, and showing people the various incredible ways that our community has contributed to the United States. Our contributions run the gamut from humanistic and secular spaces or in the fields of the arts, politics, and the sciences. 

Hopefully, you’ll have a more precise understanding of the countless ways that Hispanic Americans make life in America more wonderful.

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Luciano Joshua Gonzalez-Vega

Luciano Joshua Gonzalez-Vega is a Puerto Rican atheist and secular humanist living in Greensboro, North Carolina. They have a Master's Degree in Peace & Conflict Studies from the University of North...