Hispanic culture and history can be taught, appreciated, and celebrated year-round, however, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the United States commemorates and honors Hispanic and Latinx communities and their contributions to American society.
Hispanic Heritage Month began as a week in June 1968 when California Congressman George E. Brown conceived the idea to recognize the Hispanic and Latinx citizens in his district.
On Sept. 17, 1968, Congress passed a bill authorizing the President to designate the week of Sept. 15 as a National Hispanic Heritage Week and “[call] upon the people of the United States, especially the educational community, to observe such week with appropriate ceremonies and activities.” That same day, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill into law.
Almost two decades later, in 1987, California Representative Esteban Torres submitted a bill to extend National Hispanic Heritage Week to an entire month. According to Torres, Hispanic Heritage Month “will allow our Nation to properly observe and coordinate events and activities to celebrate Hispanic culture and achievement.”
A similar bill introduced by Illinois Senator Paul Simon was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on Aug. 17, 1988. A year later, on Sept. 14, 1989, President George H.W. Bush declared the 31-day period from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month.
President Bush, a sponsor of the original 1968 bill, was a strong proponent of the month, saying, “not all of the contributions made by Hispanic Americans to our society are so visible or so widely celebrated, however. Hispanic Americans have enriched our nation beyond measure with the quiet strength of closely knit families and proud communities.”
Below is a timeline of essential milestones in Hispanic-American history.
- April 2, 1513: Juan Ponce de Leon lands in America along the Florida Coast
- March 6, 1836: Mexican troops under President Antonio López de Santa Anna storm The Alamo
- 1846-1848: the Mexican-American War takes place following the annexation of Texas
- 1898: the United States and Spain fought over Cuba and the Philippines in the Spanish-American War
- Feb. 5, 1917: Congress passes the Immigration Act of 1917, which limited immigration to the United States
- March 2, 1917: Puerto Ricans are granted U.S. citizenship
- Aug. 4, 1942: The United States and Mexico sign the Mexican Farm Labor Agreement, known as the Bracero Program, allowing Mexican workers to work in the United States
- June 3, 1943: The U.S. military targets young Mexican Americans in the Los Angeles Zoot Suit Riots
- April 14, 1947: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals prohibits segregation in California public schools in a landmark ruling leading to Brown v. Board of Education
- May 3, 1954: the United States Supreme Court rules that Mexican-Americans have equal protection under the law in Hernandez v. State of Texas
- April 17, 1961: U.S.-trained Cuban exiles launch botches Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba
- 1965-1970: Cesar Chavez of the National Farm Workers Association leads Latinx and Filipino farmers in the Delano Grape Strike
- April 20, 1980: Fidel Castro allows Cuban citizens to immigrate to Florida
- Nov. 6, 1986: 2.7 million immigrants are granted legal status after President Ronald Reagan signs the Immigration Reform and Control Act
- Aug. 8, 2009: Sonia Sotomayor becomes the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice
Watch the History Channel with the TDS TV+ Journey Package to continue learning more about Hispanic history and culture. Let’s make Hispanic Heritage Month every month.
By Emma Maring, TDS Communications Intern
The Creation and Evolution of the National Hispanic Heritage Celebration, United States House of Representatives
Hispanic Heritage Month, History.com
Hispanic History Milestones, History.com