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How it’s History: Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month occurs from September 15th to October 15th. Although it is a significant part of Hispanic History, it is also important to look at the congressional and legal processes that made this nationally recognized celebration possible.

Hispanic Heritage Month got its start as a celebratory week when it was first introduced to Congress by Congressman George E. Brown in June of 1968. Three months later, Congress passed Public Law 90-48, approving the President, Lyndon B. Johnson, to declare that September 15th and 16th marked the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Week. This proclamation also directed the American people and the U.S. educational community to observe the week.

The timing of Hispanic Heritage Month coincides with the independence days of multiple Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. These countries all have the same Independence Day – September 15th. Mexico’s Independence Day, September 16th, Chile’s Independence Day, September 18th, and Belize’s Independence Day, September 21st, were gradually added, turning Hispanic Heritage Week into Hispanic Heritage Month.

From 1968 to 1988, Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan all issued the annual proclamation, observing a week to honor Hispanic Americans. U.S. Representative Esteban E. Torres of California proposed to expand the week to a month in 1987. The next year, Senator Paul Simon submitted a similar bill that passed Congress and was signed into law on August 17, 1988 by President Ronald Reagan. On September 14, 1989, President George H.W. Bush – who had supported the original Hispanic Heritage Week – was the first president to declare September 15th through October 15th to be National Hispanic Heritage Month.

The overall significance and resilience of Hispanic peoples in LPA and beyond is something to admire, whether one observes such a date or actively celebrates. The legal and congressional processes are fundamental to any observed holiday.

To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at LPA, I took the time to interview one of our own Hispanic teachers, Mrs. Peterson. Mrs. Peterson is the high school Spanish II and IB Spanish III teacher. She is a long-standing member of LPA faculty and is known for her warm smile and hilarious personality.

Mrs. Peterson was born in Torreón, Coahuila, México and spent her life there until at age 17 she moved to Atlanta, Georgia to attend Georgia Institute of Technology. While at the time, it was not in her plan to become a teacher, as years passed, and she took time to raise a family, she realized she needed a change. She earned a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Spanish, so she could then become a Spanish teacher.

When asked what Hispanic Heritage means to her, Mrs. Peterson, replied, “ celebrates who I am. It means so much because it is the values and culture I inherited from my parents and grandparents.” She was glad that Congress took the time back in 1968 “to recognize the growing Hispanic population and contribution they have made to the country.”

The interview ended with a final question: What message did she want to share with students and staff observing Hispanic Heritage Month? Mrs. Peterson replied, “We are grateful for how the USA is a land of opportunities, no matter where we come from. Moreover, our Hispanic Heritage stays with us and affects the way we connect with people, and it has been wonderful for me to share this with you. Thank you for celebrating with us!”

Hispanic Heritage Month should be a time of celebration, in which we as a nation recognize the “cultural richness and diversity in our community” (Peterson). Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!


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