Here’s How Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 Became National Hispanic Heritage Month

By Diane Haddad

National Hispanic Heritage Month

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.

Independence Days

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:

If you have Hispanic heritage — anywhere from Mexico to Chile to Spain — you’re in luck: More resources for tracing their immigration are available more readily than ever before. In this collection, get eight resources to trace your Hispanic heritage for one low price! You will learn important historical dates and timelines, Spanish naming traditions, where to find records of immigration by ship, plane and train, and much more! Even better? This kit has a $70.96 value but costs just $24.99! Get yours today!