We celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15) to recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic American champions who have inspired others to achieve success. The observation began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988.
The celebration starts in the middle of the month, as opposed to the end, because the 15th marks the independence days of five Latin America countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile, and Belize follow shortly after, on the 16th, 18th and 21st.
It particularly celebrates Hispanic arts and culture and is therefore supported by: The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Dolores Huerta the activist, Roberto Clemente the baseball player, and Sonia Sotomayor the Supreme Court Justice, are just three of the Hispanic figures celebrated throughout the month.
People up and down the United States put on events and festivals to honor Hispanic culture. The El Barrio Latin Jazz festival takes place in the Bronx, N.Y., from September 15 to 25, and the Northwest Arkansas Hispanic Heritage Festival in Fayetteville, Ark., are just a couple of the local celebrations.
Almost a fifth of the total U.S. population is Hispanic, according to the Pew Research Center. At a population of 57 million, they are the second-fastest growing racial or ethnic group behind Asians. Hispanics made up just 5% of the population back in 1970.
Of that population, around two-thirds, or 35.3 million, are people of Mexican origin. Those of Puerto Rican heritage are next at 5.3 million, and around 1 million each of Salvadorans, Cubans, Dominicans, Guatemalans and Colombians are living in the United States.
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