The first colonial settlement in North America wasn’t Jamestown in 1607. Nope, the Spanish got here quicker. They established St. Augustine in 1565 on the Atlantic coast of what’s now Florida (whose name is Spanish for “land of flowers”).
Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month, when we celebrate Hispanic and Latino American heritage, culture and contribution to US history. Around 55 million (17 percent) of Americans have Hispanic (Spanish-speaking, regardless of place of origin) or Latino (Latin American) roots.
Why does National Hispanic Heritage Month span two months? In 1968, California Rep. Edward R. Roybal sponsored a law to establish Hispanic Heritage Week starting Sept. 15. That week would include independence celebrations of eight Latin American countries:
- Costa Rica: Sept. 15, 1821
- El Salvador: Sept. 15, 1821
- Guatemala: Sept. 15, 1821
- Honduras: Sept. 15, 1821
- Nicaragua: Sept. 15, 1821
- Mexico: Sept. 16, 1810 (If you’re wondering, Cinco de Mayo isn’t a celebration of independence. Rather, it’s a relatively minor holiday in Mexico to mark an 1862 Franco-Mexican War victory at the Battle of Puebla.)
- Chile: Sept. 18, 1810 (The Britain community in Valparaiso, Chile, gave the Arco Britanico, above, on Chile’s 100th anniversary of independence.)
- Belize: Sept. 21, 1981
In 1988, another Californian, Rep. Esteban E. Torres, sponsored a law to expand the Hispanic heritage commemoration to a 30-day period starting Sept. 15. The bill died in committee, but a similar bill from the Senate passed. President Ronald Reagan signed it into law Aug. 17, 1988.
Hispanic, Latin American and Caribbean Genealogy Resources
Are you researching Hispanic or Latino roots? Check out these Family Tree Magazine articles:
- How to list Spanish surnames in your family tree
- How to research genealogy in the Caribbean
- Latin American genealogy resources
- South American genealogy research
- Mexican genealogy research guide
- Tracing roots in Spain, Portugal and the Basque region
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