According to the National Hispanic Heritage Month website, the period of September 15 through October 15 serves as the official time of year for celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
As with other months of historical recognition, the idea behind Hispanic History Month was to set aside a specific time of the year to highlight everything the Hispanic people have contributed to our country.
The idea of a set time to recognize and celebrate the Hispanic histories and cultures that added to the great American melting pot of worldwide cultures first became official in 1968, when President Johnson started Hispanic Heritage Week. 20 years later, President Reagan expanded the observance dates to a full month, which has remained intact ever since.
Why Does It Take Place Over Two Months?
Good question. While it would make sense to start National Hispanic Historic Month on September 1 to maintain continuity with the other historical celebration months, they’re a few specific reasons why the recognition doesn’t start until September 15.
First, September 15 has some big historical significance to many Hispanic cultures. Five Hispanic countries – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua – all celebrate their independence days on September 15. Secondly, the choice of September 15 through October 15 allows recognition of independence celebrations for Mexico (September 16) and Nicaragua (September 18) and the observance of Columbus Day on October 12.
By starting the recognitions on September 15 and running through to October 15, the observance provides a more inclusive experience for everyone, from those Americans who have Hispanic heritage in their family tree to those who want to learn more about the Hispanic culture.
It may help to think of National Hispanic Heritage Month like the holiday season in December. Yes, Christmas gets all the attention, but a number of other holidays occur during the month as well.
How Does One Observe The Month?
First of all, keep in mind that learning and enjoying Hispanic culture never has to be limited to the September 15-October 15 time frame. There’s absolutely nothing stopping you from learning and observing Hispanic culture at any time during the year.
In terms of observation, the best thing to do would be to check out any Hispanic organizations or community groups active in your area and see if they have anything planned during National Hispanic Heritage Month. This could include educational seminars, celebrations, festivals, or anything that offers an observance of the various Hispanic cultures.
The idea with the historical observance months rests in the honoring of all that has been accomplished by the members of those groups.
Just as with Black History Month and Women’s History Month, there’s not really a set time frame to learn and celebrate and explore the histories and cultures of Hispanic Americans. If you want to learn about Mexican history in March, go right ahead.
But if you get the chance, indulge in some Hispanic culture between late September and mid-October.