Hispanic Heritage Month
The contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans are recognized annually in the United States during National Hispanic Heritage Month, from September 15 to October 15. President Lyndon Johnson first declared Hispanic Heritage Week in September 1968, and in 1988, Congress authorized President George H.W. Bush to proclaim the days between September 15 and October 15 as a national month of celebration of the cultures and traditions of Hispanic Americans.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 52 million people of Hispanic origin living in the United States as of 2011, with an additional 3.7 million residing in Puerto Rico. Only Mexico has a larger Hispanic population. To be of Hispanic origin does not require one to be from Spain, Mexico, or Latin America; many Hispanic people hail from European countries, India, and Africa as well. In 2010, it was estimated that more than 37 million U.S. residents spoke Spanish at home, constituting 12.8 percent of all persons ages five and older.
Beginning with Ponce de Leon’s exploration of Florida in 1513, contributions by Hispanic and Latino residents of the United States are numerous. In 2007, there were 2.3 million Hispanic-owned businesses in America, generating revenues of more than $350 billion. More than one million Hispanics or Latinos are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. The first admiral of the United States Navy was David Glasgow Farragut, a Hispanic who played a vital role in the conclusion of the Civil War.
Luis Alvarez, a professor at the University of California at Berkley, won the Nobel Prize in 1968 for his work on subatomic particles, and MIT’s Mario Molina won the award in chemistry in 1995 for his research on chlorofluorocarbons and damage to the ozone layer. The first female Surgeon General of the United States was of Hispanic origin, Dr. Antonia Novello. Cesar Chavez, an Hispanic farm laborer, civil rights activist, and American labor leader, co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with Delores Huerta; this ground-breaking organization later became United Farm Workers.
Artistic and musical accomplishments range from the works of Marisol, a contemporary sculptor with pieces on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to international pop sensation Jennifer Lopez, born in The Bronx, New York, to Puerto Rican parents in 1969. Other famous Hispanic contributors include actors Desi Arnaz, Rita Hayworth (born Margarita Carmen Cansino), and Andy Garcia; singers Joan Baez, Ritchie Valens, and Christina Aguilera; and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Enjoy events around Missouri celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month:
St. Louis Area
- The Greater St. Louis Hispanic Festival begins on Sept. 6 at 10 a.m. and runs daily through Sept. 8 at Kiener Plaza, 600 Market Street, St. Louis. Enjoy seven live Latin bands, traditional dancers from Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela, dance lessons in salsa and bachata, food and drinks, and crafts. Admission is free. For more information, call 314-837-6100 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- On Sept. 7 from 2 to 4 p.m., the Divoll Branch of the St. Louis Public Library, 4234 North Grand Avenue, St. Louis, presents Colombian born dance artist-educator Carmen Dence and Grupo Atlantico. The show will highlight the Afro-Colombian tradition of Bullerengue dance with a slide presentation followed by dance and music. Maria Teresa Balogh, Associate Teaching Professor of Spanish at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, will share poetry selections from her book Bailar Caribeno about the dances and cultural traditions of the Colombian Caribbean coast. Some audience participation is encouraged. For more information, call 314-534-0313.
- The Sociedad Cultural Mexicana of St. Louis presents its annual Mexican Independence Day gala with a dinner and show on Sept. 14 at the Sheraton Westport Lakeside Chalet Hotel, 191 Westport Plaza, St. Louis, at 6:30 p.m. There will be dancing, ballet folklorico quetzal, a scholarship awards ceremony, and much more. Contact Gloria Serrano Hansen by calling 636-561-2386 or by e-mail at Gloria63367@gmail.com, or e-mail The Sociedad Cultural at SCMSTL@yahoo.com.
- The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts and Left Bank Books, 399 North Euclid Avenue, St. Louis, will hold a book club discussion Sept. 26 at 7 p.m., centered on Configurations, a collection of poems by Nobel laureate Mexican writer Octavio Paz. The event will be in both Spanish and English. For more information, call 314-446-2057 or e-mail email@example.com.
- The Fabulous Fox Theatre presents the Tony Award-winning musical EVITA from Oct. 8-20. Eva Perón used her beauty and charisma to rise meteorically from the slums of Argentina to the presidential mansion as First Lady. Adored by her people as a champion for the poor, she became one of the most powerful women in the world, while her greed, outsized ambition, and fragile health made her one of the most tragic. Enjoy the show by purchasing tickets online, by calling 314-534-1111 or by visiting the Fox Theatre box office at 527 North Grand Boulevard, St. Louis.
Kansas City Area
- On Sept. 5, the Kansas City Public Library presents A Chicana's Life in Literature with writer Norma Cantú, internationally known scholar of Latino and Chicano literature and studies, as she reads from her book Canicula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera, a chronicle of life on the U.S.-Mexico border at the Central Library, 14 West 10th Street, Kansas City, beginning at 6 p.m. She will also read from her poetry book manuscript Meditacion Fronteriza/Borderlands Meditation and from her novel-in-progress, tentatively titled Champú or Hair Matters. For more information, call 816-701-3400 or click here to RSVP to the event.
- Guadalupe Centers will hold their Blanco y Negro Awards Gala on Sept. 13 to formally kick off Hispanic Heritage Month by bringing together community and civic leaders to honor and thank those individuals who have contributed to improving the quality of life for Kansas City Latinos. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. and will be held at The Westin Kansas City at Crown Center, 1 East Pershing Road, Kansas City. For more information, contact Tania Casas at 816-421-1015 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Through Oct. 27, the Kansas City Public Library is home to Bittersweet Harvest, a new bilingual exhibition organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History that examines the experiences of Bracero workers and their families, providing rich insight into Mexican-American life and historical background to today’s debates on immigration and guest worker programs. The exhibition is open at the Central Library, 14 West 10th Street, Kansas City, Monday-Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, call 816-701-3400.
- On Oct. 12, the 12th Annual Fall Festival, organized by the Jefferson City Multicultural Forum, will be held on Madison and High Streets from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be more than 100 arts, crafts and informational booths, along with a variety of food and beverage stands. All-day main stage entertainment will have acts representing various nationalities. Activities, games, giveaways, and more will be available for children. This event is free to the public and will showcase the best of Mid-Missouri's many cultures. For more information, e-mail email@example.com.
Other Events in Missouri
- Samba Bom, a Brazilian music band, will perform at Blumenhof Winery in the Village of Dutzow, in Warren County, on Sept. 21 beginning at 5 p.m. Picnics are welcome. Enjoy wine, friends, and music. The event is co-sponsored by the Hispanic Arts Council of St. Louis. Contact Blumenhof Winery, 13699 South Highway 94, Village of Dutzow, at 800-419-2245 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about Hispanic heritage:
- In honor of this year's National Hispanic Heritage Month, Smithsonian.com discusses the changing demographics of the United States, talks with comedian George Lopez on humor and race, remembers an historic Little League Baseball team, and highlights the food of Hispanic culture. In addition, Smithsonian.com offers a list of festivals, concerts, and lectures at the Smithsonian Institution and throughout the country. You can also take the Smithsonian's Hispanic Heritage Cultural Tour online.
- Spend time with a good book from an Hispanic Heritage Month-suggested reading list from websites, such as Scholastic, All About Adolescent Literacy, and Just Read!, with a variety of books by grade level for children of all ages, as well as a selection of books for adult reading, including: Pablo’s Tree and The Color of My Words for elementary to middle school children; American Chica for high school students; and The Line of the Sun for adults.
- View articles, videos, and photographs celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America by visiting the National Hispanic Heritage Month website.