Each year, from September 15 to October 15, our nation pays tribute to Hispanic Americans who have had a positive influence and enriched our nation and society. Our nation celebrates contributions from the Hispanic community during this month and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans. These dates were chosen to commemorate two historic events, the formal signing of the Act of Independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua on September 15, 1821. Also, Mexico’s Independence Day, marked by the beginning of the struggle against Spanish Control on September 16, 1810.

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson officially acknowledged September 15th as a day of celebration and the event spread to a month-long event in 1988 to include El Dia de la Raza on October 12. This day celebrates the influence of those who came after Christopher Columbus and the expansion of Hispanic culture that followed. Some important settlements founded by Spanish explorers include, San Miguel de Gualdape. It was the first European settlement in North America, founded in Georgia in 1526, 81 years before Jamestown. St. Augustine, Florida was founded in 1565 and is the oldest city in the United States. Hispanic Americans have been contributing to life in the United States ever since.

Additional dates of importance during Hispanic Heritage Month are September 18th (El Dieciocho), Chile’s Independence Day, and September 21st, Belize’s Independence Day.

During Hispanic Heritage month, many festivals are held across major cities nationwide. For example, New York recognizes the event with an annual Hispanic Day Parade.  Many states such as California, Louisiana, and Florida host festivals, which include concerts, sporting events, competitions, and food vendors. In Washington, D.C., various museums have displays focused on Hispanic Culture. Some examples include a display of Mayan culture at American Indian Museum and a celebration of Latina women at National Museum of American History

The Hispanic community consists of people who identify themselves as Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban or another Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin. There are 55 million Hispanics in the United States and this group makes up 17% of the American population. By 2060, it is estimated there will be 119 million Hispanics and they will make up the second to largest racial/ethnic group in US). The top 5 states of residence for Hispanic populations include California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas.

Hispanic and Latin Americans have had a positive influence on our country through their commitment to family, faith, hard work, and service. Their positive contributions to our society are undeniable and invaluable. They enhance our national character with traditions reflecting multi-ethnic and multicultural customs from their Hispanic communities. Be sure to take some time this year celebrate your friends, family members, co-workers, or any Hispanic or Latin American in your life. They deserve it!

Dr. Jennifer Manning
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Nursing Programs 
LSUHSC School of Nursing

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