When Is Hispanic Heritage Month?

(Last Updated On: September 19, 2021)

If you’re living in America, this post is going up in the midst of Hispanic Heritage Month. Starting on September 15th and running through October 15th, Hispanic Heritage Month may be striking to some because it does not start and end at the beginning of a given month. So let’s do a quick run-down of Hispanic Heritage Month; how it came to be and why it starts in the middle of September.

Hispanic Heritage Week

It’s a pretty common thread for history/heritage months; the ambitions of celebrating for an entire month were often seen as too high. So yes, Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week. In then-president Lyndon B. Johnson’s address, he cites that the week of September 15th was chosen because Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua all celebrate their independence days on the 15th of September. Mexico comes a day after, on September 16th. While he didn’t cite the independence days of Chile and Belize, they fall on September 18th and 21st–the same week as the 15th. An annual proclamation for Hispanic Heritage Week would be made by all successive presidents from 1968 to 1988 (that’s Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan).

The legislation that first got Hispanic Heritage Week onto the desk of Lyndon B. Johnson was sponsored by California Representative Edward R. Roybal and introduced by California Representative George E. Brown. Roybal was known for a handful of more socially progressive policies; penning the first bill giving federal support to bilingual education in 1967 (as well as specialized language education for immigrant Americans). He’s got a lot of buildings named after him and was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously by then-president Barack Obama in 2014. Brown would bring Hispanic Heritage Week forth in the 60s as the American civil rights movement pushed momentum for Americans to better recognize multiculturalism in the USA. 

Week to Month

Proclamations for Hispanic Heritage Week stopped in 1988, but that’s not because any presidents forgot or chose not to (which is a thing we have to say now because it’s happened with other months). It was 1988 that Hispanic Heritage Week became Hispanic Heritage Month California Representative Esteban E. Torres introduced a bill in 1987 to extend the week to a month. A similar bill was submitted by Illinois Senator Paul Simon in 1988. This bill was signed into law by then-president Reagan in 1988. Following this in September 1989, then-president H.W. Bush would become the first president to declare September 15th to October 15th as National Hispanic Heritage Month. This expanded Hispanic Heritage Month to also include Día de la Raza on October 12th–celebrating race and also rejecting Columbus. 

While nationally recognized as “Hispanic Heritage Month,” the term “Hispanic” is contentious today for a multitude of reasons. Chiefly, it’s origin. For one, the term “Hispanic” is inexorably linked to the American census–mainly how the government struggled to categorize and label individuals. Further, “Hispanic” is an English translation of the Spanish “Hispano,” which refers to an individual whose culture originates from Spain. Taking a cursory glance at Spain’s history with Latin America (IE Spain was a colonizing force), it’s easy to see how many feel that “Hispanic” erases pre-Columbian culture and history–especially for those whose heritage is deeply tied to resisting colonization. This is why you might see “Latinx,” a term whose popularity is currently rising. 

As the month continues, it is a celebration of culture and history–which is also one of struggle and oppression. Many scholars lament that struggles faced by real people, from the lynching of Latinos in Texas as recently as 1910 to the segregation levied against Mexican students in the 1940s are poorly taught (if at all).

About the Author:

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Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.