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Hispanic Heritage Month – Why It’s Important to Celebrate

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“A concerted effort to preserve our heritage is a vital link to our cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational, and economic legacies – all of the things that quite literally make us who we are.” – Steve Berry


September 15th marks the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month for the U.S. Each year, millions of Hispanics celebrate their heritage, their accomplishments, and what it means to be Hispanic in this country. Whether it’s the food, music, or art, every aspect of Hispanic culture is celebrated with pride. But how and why did this month come to be? Why is it important to celebrate HHM? Bueno, let me explain.

 

The History of HHM

The year is 1968. President Lyndon B. Johnson is currently in office and Congress passed Public Law 90-48, requesting the president to issue an annual observation that declares September 15th as National Hispanic Heritage Month. Every year since 1968, Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan honored the yearly proclamations for the week-long celebration. This was until 1988, when Congress passed a law signed in by President Ronald Reagan that extended the week-long celebration into a 31-day period that lasted from September 15th to October 15th. This marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month. But why September 15th? What significance does the day have? Well, when Congress passed Public Law 90-48, the date wasn’t chosen by random. In fact, the date was chosen as an addition to an already special celebration in Central and South America. On September 15th, 1821, 5 Central American nations were declared independent from Spain. After that day, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua all declared their Independence Day as an annual celebration. Additionally, Mexico declared independence from Spain on September 16th, 1810. Later that week, Chile broke free from Spain’s control on September 18th, 1810. The 21st also marks the day of Belize’s independence from Spain in 1981. Since 1988, the month-long proclamation has been made by every president of the United States up till the present day.

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What Countries Celebrate HHM?

The term ‘Hispanic” refers to individuals whose background is based in a Spanish-speaking country. This would exclude Brazil and Portugal. Great countries, but the official language of those countries isn’t Spanish, but rather Portuguese. So what countries are classified as Hispanic? Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela are all countries included in the annual celebration. Each of the countries use Spanish as its official language, therefore, they are classified as Hispanic countries. You’ll find that many people from these countries don’t just classify themselves as Hispanic, but also Latino, which refers to people who are descended from Latin America, regardless if the official language is Spanish or not. This would make Brazil Latino, but not Hispanic. Regardless, most people use Hispanic and Latino interchangeably.

 

Why It’s Important to Celebrate

What makes someone unique is their heritage. No matter where you are from, most people feel a deep attachment to their country of origin because it shapes their identity and their culture. Hispanics are proud of the fact that regardless of skin tone, language, or culture, we are a community that takes pride in our identity. A little less than 2 centuries ago, most Latin American countries were under the control of another country, limiting their freedom and expression of identity. Once these countries were free, the idea of preserving one’s culture was passed down onto future generations. But why is it important to celebrate now? Well, more than 62 million Hispanics live in the United States, making up roughly 19% of the total population. And of those Hispanics, most of them are descendants of immigrants who traveled to the United States for better opportunities. You’ll find that this was the reality for many Hispanics dating back to the mid-19th Century up till the present day. One of the core values of Hispanic culture is the emphasis on working hard to achieve your goals and stories of our parents leaving their home countries to seek a better life for themselves and their families. Despite moving away, they never lost sense of their identity and country. Celebrations like Hispanic Heritage Month serve as a reminder that one should always be proud of who they are. The month is also a teaching moment for those who aren’t Hispanic, further spreading Hispanic identity and culture to the nation.

How Hispanics and non-Hispanics celebrate HHM is up to the individuals themselves, but typically, the month is celebrated with large plates of food, music, lots of dancing, and art. However it is celebrated, we always make sure to have fun. But one thing is certain, the month is always celebrated with friends and family. Even if your relatives live far away, Hispanics always manage to celebrate with their loved ones. Even if you’re not Hispanic, you can still celebrate the month by appreciating the culture, the accomplishments, and the influence. There are many things you can do to celebrate your local Hispanic community. Go to a Hispanic Heritage parade, visit a Hispanic-owned restaurant, purchase a book from a Hispanic author, donate to a non-profit Hispanic organization, visit a Hispanic museum, support local Hispanic artists, and much more.


If you’d like to support your fellow Hispanics this month, check out these local institutions and individuals here in Jacksonville who would appreciate your support.

Don Juan’s Restaurant

(Photo via Don Juan’s Webpage)

This family-owned restaurant was established by Efrain Quezada with his wife Dinora Quezada in 2004 and doors opened on December 6th, 2007. Efrain came from El Salvador at age 17 and began his restaurant experience as a dishwasher. He soon developed a passion for the restaurant industry and a desire to open his own restaurant business. His restaurant strives for authenticity and freshness and every guest leaves the restaurant satisfied. Efrain says “He loves what he does and is very proud to offer an excellent product to his customers.”

 

 

 


FIHS Student Ivan Steckley

“I was raised in a mixed family–my father being white and my mother Mexican. Growing up with my mom and grandma meant that I had pretty much no personal space. My grandma was always over at the house, either babysitting me or coming over to cook for us.There wasn’t ever a family event that she wasn’t at.

One Christmas night, I was sitting in my back yard after drawing, and I left my sketchbook out on the couch by accident. I come back to see that she’s flipping through every page. Of course I freak out and scramble to take it back from her, but to this day I still feel bad because she just wanted to get a closer look at how my mind works. Now that I’ve grown older, I would let her look through all of my sketchbooks and show her everything I’ve drawn if it meant that it would make her happy.”


Hola News Jacksonville

(Photo via Hola New’s Webpage)

Hola News Jacksonville is a Hispanic-owned local newspaper here in Jacksonville as well as other states. The articles written are relevant to current issues and in Spanish, providing a reliable news source for millions of Hispanics. Hola News provides local Hispanic stories that highlights Hispanic accomplishments, movements, and issues.

 

 

 


As the month goes on, everyone is encouraged to be made aware of the history, the milestones, and the impact the Hispanic community has to offer. Celebrate your favorite friend, teacher, writer, or artist this month! Feliz mes de la Herencia Hispana! Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

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About the Contributor
Hi! I'm Julieta, Golden Times co-editor. I've been in Golden Times since 2022 and during my free time, I love to write creatively as my future aspiration is cinematography and photojournalism. I have 2 cats and my favorite hobby of mine is painting!
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