September 15th marked the official start of Hispanic Heritage Month here in the United States. The celebration lasts until October 15th and contains thousands of events across the country celebrating Hispanic culture and the heritage of the millions of Hispanic citizens in America.
The month long holiday began in 1968 and originally was only a week long, but it was voted in 1988 to expand to a month long celebration of culture, food, art, entertainment, etc. According to the official website, “Hispanic Heritage Month pays tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.”
The essence of the celebratory month is based in Hispanic art and culture, making it a nationally recognized month 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. All of these government owned institutions hold special events, exhibits, performances, and appearances that all emphasize a certain aspect of Hispanic culture from experts.
Lin-Manuel Miranda and Luis A. Miranda Jr. attend Viva Broadway to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month
For example, according to Time Magazine, “The Smithsonian Institute will be sharing memories of Mexican-American entertainer Selena by displaying one of her costumes at the National Museum of American History, and throughout the month they are hosting Hispanic dance performances, art and natural history exhibitions.”
According to recent census reports, Hispanic people make up almost 20% of the population in America, for reference, in 1970 they only made up about 5%. So it’s so important now more than ever that we celebrate the culture that makes up a fifth of this country. America is known as a melting pot of all cultures and experiences and it’s important that we take specific time to appreciate the diversity that makes this country so unique. It also gives us an opportunity to educate all generations on the history of all Americans.
Cuban-American salsa singer Celia Cruz, One of the many being honored at the Smithsonian’s Latin Music exhibit this month
New York City is known to be a huge hub for celebration during this month. The El Barrio Latin Jazz festival takes place in the Bronx, N.Y., from September 15 to 25 and continuously celebrates the specific art of Latin Jazz, just one unique element of Latin music. With so many different branches of culture, it’s no wonder we need a whole month to fit everything in! So many times we don’t take enough time to look around and appreciate the beauty that is our differences. To view each unique piece of a culture and learn about the who, what, where, when, and why. This month was created as a means of doing just that. It’s the same reason we celebrate things like Black History Month (February), Pride Month (June), Woman’s History Month (March), etc. it dedicates a length of time to celebrate a piece of America.
Of the 37 million Hispanic individuals currently living in the United States, 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,” according to Time.
Each specific Hispanic culture is extremely different from the last. There’s a whole slew of diversity within the cultures, languages, lifestyles, and actual geographic locations. This month allows all of that diversity to blend into a month long celebration of one another and the differences that make the Hispanic population so beautiful. In a country where discontent for our differences seems to be more celebrated than the differences themselves, some say this might be the most important Hispanic Heritage Month yet. This month is all about embracing the Hispanic culture and honoring the history and the struggles that Hispanic individuals have endured for centuries, and continue to today.
For more information regarding specific events and other festivities happening around you, make sure to visit the official Hispanic Heritage Month website by clicking here!
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.