National Hispanic Heritage Month: Why is it Split Between Two Months?
Every year, National Hispanic Heritage Month spans the period from September 15th to October 15th. This month-long celebration recognizes the contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
When I first learned that this celebration was spilt between two months, I was intrigued. Why the split between months? Why not have it contained to a single month? That is, why not just pick September or October? The answer is tied with the Independence Day celebration for several Central American Countries and the fact that celebrating Hispanic Heritage started out as Hispanic Heritage week.
The celebration of Hispanic Heritage began with Public Law 90-498 published in United States Statutes at Large with the intention to celebrate it over a week period:
"JOINT RESOLUTION: authorizing the President to proclaim annually the week including September 15 and 16 as "National Hispanic Week". Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled, that the President is hereby authorized and requested to issue annually a proclamation designating the week including September 15 and 16 as "National Hispanic Week" and calling upon the people of the United States, especially the educational community, to observe such week with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
Approved, September 17, 1968."
Why was September 15th chosen as the start date? Representative George Edward Brown of California explained the proposed period:
“would include the date of the annual observance of the anniversary of Mexican independence celebrated on the 15th and 16th of September. It would also include the date of annual observance of Independence Day on September 15th, in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, as well as being close to the date of Chile’s Independence Day, September 18th.”
It was not until 1988 that Public Law 100-402 proposed that Hispanic Heritage be celebrated over a month-long period in section 1 "Authorize the Designation of the National Hispanic Heritage Month."
"The joint resolution entitled "Joint resolution authorizing the President to proclaim annually the week including September 15 and 16 as 'National Hispanic Heritage Week'", approved September 17, 1968 (36 U.S.C. 169f), is amended -
- by striking "week including September 15 and 16" and inserting "31-day period beginning September 15 and ending on October 15";
- by striking "Week" and inserting "Month"; and
- by striking "week" and inserting "month".
The amendments made in section 1 shall take effect on January 1 of the first year beginning after the date of the enactment of this Act.
Approved August 17, 1988."
Once the idea was proposed to expand the celebration to a month-long period, the drafters chose to keep the start date as September 15th.
As such, we honor Hispanic Heritage from September 15th to October 15th every year.
Julio Navarro is a member of the firm’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee and the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey.