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What Is Hispanic Heritage Month—And How Is It Celebrated?

Adapted from an article by Robyn Moreno, Reader's Digest

Hispanic Heritage Month first started as a week when it was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. According to Congressional history, the week was created to bring attention and awareness to “Hispanic-American contributions to the United States,” along with networking opportunities for “grassroots and civil rights activists inside and outside the Hispanic-American community.”

Almost 20 years later, Representative Esteban Torres of California, a proud Mexican-American, submitted a bill to expand it into Hispanic Heritage Month in 1987 saying supporters of the bill “want the American people to learn of our heritage. We want the public to know that we share a legacy with the rest of the country, a legacy that includes artists, writers, Olympic champions, and leaders in business, government, cinema, and science.” That bill didn’t pass, but Senator Paul Simon of Illinois submitted a similar bill that President Ronald Reagan signed into law in 1988 creating now what is Hispanic Heritage Month.

Some are also calling for a rebrand of Hispanic Heritage Month to Latinx Heritage Month to shift focus away from Spanish colonialism (and its harmful legacy of genocide and cultural erasure) and to be more inclusive of indigenous, Black, and non-binary Latinxs who are not always centered in these celebrations. In a New York Times column, Saudi Garcia—a racial justice activist—advocated for Hispanic Heritage Month going “beyond celebration” to include more meaningful conversations that “will move the communities forward.”

Others also question the authenticity of some companies and organizations who “celebrate” this month for optics, but don’t focus on the issues facing the community like the fact that Latina women make less than anyone else at 55¢ to the dollar a White man makes or that Hispanic men made 14.9 percent less in hourly wages than comparable White men, according to the Economic Policy Insititute.

Latina women make less than anyone else at 55¢ to the dollar

The takeaway might be that Hispanic Heritage Month is a great starting place to get educated on the work and contributions of Latinxs, while we continue to celebrate and center the needs of Latinxs all year long.


This Reader’s Digest article by Robyn Moreno, published on August 21, 2021 was adapted to fit The Think Table.

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