Written by Josue Santiago Friday, 10 September 2010 00:00
September 15th to October 15th
Every year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15. This period marks a time in which we all celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. It began in 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson instituted Hispanic Heritage Week. Then, in 1988, President Ronald Reagan proposed to expand it to cover a 30day period starting on September 15. Eventually, it was enacted into law on August 17, 1988.
But, why start the celebration in the middle of the month? September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of the independence of several Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period. So, the goal was to begin Hispanic Heritage Month on a day that was the most culturally significant to as many countries as possible, and carry it through other important dates.
Hispanics have a lot to be proud of. We have made several contributions to this great nation and we continue to do so every day. Check out some of these notable Hispanic citizens:
David Farragut, Admiral in the Union Navy—Of Spanish descent, he fought in the Civil War and was a recognized leader. He is remembered in popular culture for his order: "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" Farragut remained on active duty for life, an honor accorded to only six other US naval officers.
Frida Kahlo, Artist—A Mexican painter, best known for her selfportraits with "pain and passion" and intense vibrant colors. Her work is celebrated in Mexico as emblematic of national and indigenous tradition, and by feminists for its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form.
Severo Ochoa, Biochemist—This SpanishAmerican biochemist conducted extensive research in protein synthesis and replication of RNA viruses. In 1959, Ochoa was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his work and was a recipient of the U.S. National Medal of Science in 1979.
Desi Arnaz, Musician, Actor and Producer – This Cuban American gained international renown for leading a Latin music band, the Desi Arnaz Orchestra, and for his role as Ricky Ricardo on the classic American TV series I Love Lucy. He coined the popular phrases “Lucy, I'm home!”, “You have some 'splaining to do” and of course, “Babalu!”
Rita Hayworth, Actress and Dancer—Of Spanish descent, Rita attained fame during the 1940's as one of the era's top stars and greatest sex symbol, most notably in Gilda (1946). She appeared in 61 films over 37 years and is listed as one of the American Film Institute's Greatest Stars of All Time.
Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court—In August 2009, this wellestablished judge was appointed to the United States Supreme Court. Of Puerto Rican descent, Sotomayor is the Court's 111th justice, its first Hispanic justice, and its third female justice.