CLEVELAND — Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published on Oct. 14, 2020.
For more than 30 years, our nation has set aside a month-long period to honor the impact and contributions made to American society by Hispanic community members. However, the celebration did not always last 31 days. In fact, it started off as a commemorative week. According to History.com, the weeklong celebration was first introduced in 1968 by California Congressman George E. Brown, who represented East Los Angeles, an area that consisted of many Hispanic and Latino community members.
After the idea was introduced, it was passed through Congress and a request was sent to the president to declare Sept. 15 and 16 as the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Week. The goal of the weeklong celebration was to call on all people to observe the week with appropriate ceremonies, education and activities. And on Sept. 17, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first Hispanic Heritage Week presidential proclamation.
In 1987, United States Representative Esteban E. Torres of California pushed the idea of extending Hispanic Heritage week to a month. According to the History, Art & Archives website, Torres whose parents were from Mexico, wanted the month long celebration to exist because it would “allow our Nation to properly observe and coordinate events and activities to celebrate Hispanic culture and achievement.” Although his immediate efforts failed, it did see success a year later after a similar bill presented by Senator Paul Simon of Illinois was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. And in 1989, President George H.W. Bush declared Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month, becoming the first president to do so.
The start date of Hispanic Heritage Month is important as it corresponds with Independence Day celebrations in many Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, all of which declared their independence from Spain on Sept. 15, 1821. Mexico and Chile also declared their independence in mid-September. Hispanic Heritage Month ends on Friday, Oct. 15.