Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic HeritageThe 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 age five and older.

Beginning with Ponce de Leon’s exploration of Florida in 1513, contributions by Hispanic and Latino residents of the United States continue to be numerous. In 2007, there were 2.3 million Hispanic-owned businesses in America, generating revenues of over $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 a Hispanic, Dr. Antonia Novello. Cesar Chavez, a 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 the United Farm Workers (UFW).

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:

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