As the Library of Congress will tell you, Spanish-speaking groups have been part of the historical fabric of North America since the 1500s when Spanish colonists first arrived. Since then, a myriad of geopolitical movements have motivated countless people from Spanish-speaking nations to relocate to the United States, allowing them to establish roots that dig through American soil and reach back to Mexico, Spain, Central America, South America, or the Caribbean. Today, people of Hispanic descent represent around 19% of the U.S. population, more than 62 million people.
The reason for having Hispanic Heritage Month is that Hispanic heritage is also American heritage. In September and October, cities and organizations around the country honor the indelible impression Hispanic cultures have made on the U.S. Places of work celebrate the observance in various ways, too. To understand its value, let's delve into the facts, history, and other significant factors related to Hispanic Heritage Month.
What is Hispanic Heritage Month?
Hispanic Heritage Month is a national observation in the U.S. that takes place from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The purpose of the month is to recognize the tremendous impact on American culture and society by people of Hispanic descent, which refers to individuals with roots in Spanish-speaking nations (Mexico and Spain as well as countries in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean).
Hispanic Heritage Month begins on Sept. 15 and ends on Oct. 15 because significant historical events took place in Hispanic countries within that period. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua all won their independence in the 1800s on Sept. 15; Chile celebrates its independence on Sept. 16; Mexico's Independence Day is Sept. 18; and Día de la Raza, which recognizes the combined indigenous and European heritage of Mexico, takes place on Oct. 12.
Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is an American tradition. Both local and national institutions around the country put on tremendous events. The Smithsonian, for example, organizes multi-day events with exhibitions, dancing, music, and food. Cities from coast to coast also organize festivals incorporating local Hispanic cultural touchstones, establishments, and figures of Hispanic descent.
The history of Hispanic Heritage Month
The history of Hispanic Heritage Month traces back to 1968. California Rep. George E. Brown, who represented a portion of Los Angeles that featured a large Hispanic population, introduced the original version of the observation as a week-long commemoration. His intention was to honor the contributions of the Hispanic community throughout U.S. history, a push that followed the momentum of the Civil Rights Movement and a broader awareness of the multicultural nature of the American identity.
Congress officially authorized the observation on Sept. 17, 1968, under Public Law 90-48. On the same day, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued a formal proclamation to declare that Sept. 15 and 16 would mark the start of National Heritage Week. For the next 30 years, American presidents would announce the same proclamation every year.
However, in 1987, another Californian politician, Rep. Esteban Torres, argued that a week wasn't sufficient for properly observing Hispanic heritage and coordinating events. He wasn't the only one who felt that way, as Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois submitted a bill the following year proposing the extension of the celebration to a full month. Simon's bill passed Congress, President Ronald Reagan signed it into law on Aug. 17, 1988, and the succeeding president, George H. W. Bush, formally designated that Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 every year would be National Hispanic Heritage Month.
"The reason for having Hispanic Heritage Month is that Hispanic heritage is also American heritage."
The importance of recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month in the workplace
In recent years, an increasing number of people have become aware of the importance of being seen — that is, being acknowledged for one's identity, or parts thereof, as well as their attendant needs and emotions. Culture is a part of that, especially in a place such as the U.S., where multitudes of cultural identities are tributaries streaming into the body of national identity. Whether you're talking about a country, a community, a workplace, or wherever, formally embracing a person's cultural heritage is a way to tell them that they belong.
6 Hispanic Heritage Month quotes to share at work
People of Hispanic descent have been integral to shaping the American cultural landscape. In light of the countless contributions of those with roots in Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Spain, here are six quotations by well-known Hispanic figures you could share at work:
- "Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures." — Cesar Chavez, Mexican-American labor activist and labor leader
- "It is important for all of us to appreciate where we come from and how that history has really shaped us in ways that we might not understand." — Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. Supreme Court justice and first person of Hispanic heritage to serve on the Supreme Court
- "If you have an opportunity to make things better and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth." — Roberto Clemente, Hall of Fame major league baseball player and renowned humanitarian
- "If people have to put labels on me, I'd prefer the first label to be 'human being' ..." — Joan Baez, folksinger, songwriter, and activist
- "Have a good day, which becomes a great month, which becomes a great year, which becomes a great life." — Danny Trejo, actor, author, and restaurateur
- "Passion is the bridge that takes you from pain to change." — Frida Kahlo, painter renowned for vividly realized self-portraits
7 Hispanic Heritage Month facts
Want some more tidbits to share with your coworkers? Check out these seven interesting facts related to Hispanic Heritage Month that you can tell your coworkers:
- Hispanic Heritage Month follows a different theme every year. In 2022, the theme was "Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation," reinforcing that diversity is the backbone of the country. In 2021, 2020, and 2019, the themes were "Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope," "Hispanics: Be Proud of Your Past, Embrace the Future," and "Hispanic Americans: A History of Serving Our Nation," respectively.
- Día de la Raza, on Oct. 12, is a direct replacement for Columbus Day.
- Officially, there are 20 Hispanic countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominical Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela. There's also a Hispanic territory belonging to the U.S., which is Puerto Rico.
- The U.S. government didn't formally use the term "Hispanic" until the 1970s when Hispanic organizations pushed for the official collection of data on the Hispanic population.
- The terms "Latina," "Latino," and "Latinx" aren't necessarily interchangeable with "Hispanic," as they refer specifically to people with ancestry in Latin America (Mexico, South America, and Central America).
- California, Texas, and Florida have the largest Hispanic populations in the U.S. Four out of 10 people are of Hispanic descent in California and Texas. In Florida, it's three out of 10. Together, the three states account for more than 50% of the Hispanic population in the U.S.
- More than 340,000 businesses in the U.S. are Hispanic-owned.
As an employee or job seeker, you can do your part, no matter how small, to endorse diversity in the workplace. If you're in the market for new employment, focus your search on employers with a proven track record of inclusivity measures. To facilitate your search, upload your resume to CareerBuilder and get noticed by prospective employers.
More information about inclusivity and diversity in the workplace
Hispanic Heritage Month isn't the only U.S. commemoration that honors a specific cultural group. Juneteenth, for example, is a federal holiday formally celebrating the freedom enslaved Black Americans won. There's also Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which honors the contributions of Americans with roots in Asia and the Pacific Islands.
If you want to assess a prospective employer's devotion to inclusivity, ask the right questions in your job interview.