National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures, and contributions of people living in the United States of America whose ancestors come from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. According to the most recent census, this group includes nearly 19% of the U.S. population.
Unlike many other month-long observances, National Hispanic Heritage Month is unique because it takes place from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, as opposed to a single calendar month. It began as a weeklong celebration on Sept. 15, 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson famously said, “The people of Hispanic descent are the heirs of missionaries, captains, soldiers, and farmers who were motivated by a young spirit of adventure, and a desire to settle freely in free land … this heritage is ours.”
Twenty years later, President Ronald Reagan extended the week to a full 31 days. The celebration’s start date remained on Sept. 15 because it coincides with the national independence days of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Other Latin American countries celebrating their independence around this time include Mexico on Sept. 16, Chile on Sept. 18, and Belize on Sept. 21. President George H.W. Bush officially declared this period Hispanic Heritage Month for the years to come in 1989.
National Hispanic Heritage Month’s theme for this year is “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.” The theme encourages people to not only celebrate the past contributions of Hispanics/Latinos, but to also look toward the future.
Over the next couple weeks, many influential stories from both the past and present can be seen across broadcast networks. The following is a sampling of content that shines a light on stories that may not be widely known.
NBCUniversal and Telemundo—the leading media company serving Hispanics/Latinos in the U.S. and Puerto Rico—recently created a bilingual Hispanic Heritage Month campaign. This campaign, called “Come With Us” (“Juntos Imparables”), is an initiative that includes programming and digital elements designed to reach audiences in both English and Spanish on Telemundo and other NBCUniversal properties. The content recognizes the culture and contributions of generations of Hispanics, highlighting individuals who have enriched the country through their achievements.
People in the U.S. with ancestry from Spain, Mexico, and Spanish-speaking nations in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America have long been miscategorized by the U.S. government. Prior to 1980, Hispanics/Latinos were often referred to as “having Spanish origin,” or simply “white” in the U.S. census. These issues have contributed to different identity classifications over time, including the terms “Hispanic,” “Latino,” and “Latinx,” most recently. One difference between Hispanics and Latinos is that “Hispanic” includes people with ancestry from Spain. To learn more about this timeline and what these words mean, read this article from History.com.
The initiative kicked off Sept. 15 on NBC’s “Today” show and Telemundo’s “Hoy Dia,” which included programming ranging from topical stories on culture and equality to special segments on food and music. In the coming weeks, NBC News and MSNBC will continue to incorporate segments and specials to inform people about the current Hispanic/Latino population, including segments like “Generation LatinX,” “Dis(Owning) Hispanic,” and “The New Latino Landscape.”
”Come With Us” also includes social media initiatives, including Telemundo’s “Latinos Imparables,” which highlights key Hispanic/Latino non-profit leaders throughout the month on its social media properties. Under its national Latina Empowerment initiative, “Unstoppable Woman,” Telemundo partnered with the National Women’s History Museum to develop a bilingual Hispanic Heritage Month toolkit, including resources and museum content focused on Latinas. This includes weekly profiles of Latinas supporting their Hispanic communities and informational videos featuring Latina leaders. Today’s toolkit story features a Q&A interview with Ellen Ochoa—a former astronaut who became the first Hispanic woman in space. Ochoa later served as the director of the Johnson Space Center.
For the complete list of programming and social media initiatives for “Come With Us,” read this news release.
CBS has also generated content for several different programs throughout the celebration period. On the morning of Sept. 29, “CBS Mornings” and CBS News Correspondent Mireya Villarreal dug into the story of how a single mother’s lupus diagnosis and dietary restrictions led her family to create Siete—a nationwide gluten-free Latino food company known for its incredible—and healthy—tortillas and chips.
“CBS Mornings” and investigative journalist Liliana Luciano interviewed award-winning actress Rita Moreno on the state of Latinx representation in Hollywood, as well as her personal stories of overcoming adversity and paving the way for change. Luciano also interviewed TV writer and actress Gloria Calderon-Kellett, the first Latina to receive an eight-figure developmental TV deal with Amazon Prime.
Coverage about Rita Moreno continues when PBS pays homage to her amazing, 70-year career and humble upbringing in the documentary, “American Masters—Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It.”
“CBS Saturday Morning” has highlighted a couple influential Hispanic/Latino icons in the world of sports. On Sept. 25, this included a profile on NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony, who was born to Puerto Rican parents in Manhattan. On Oct. 3, “CBS Sunday Morning” profiled artist, social activist, and incredible potter Robert Lugo. This coming weekend, the show will feature Washington Football Team head coach and cancer survivor, Ron Rivera—the third Latino head coach in NFL history.