Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated every year in the U.S. from September 15th to October 15th. Throughout this month, Americans across the country pay tribute to the contributions that generations of Latin Americans have made to our nation’s heritage and culture.
At Remitly, we’re proud to provide our services for several Latin American countries, and we admire the hard work and sacrifices made by individuals in the Latin American communities in the United States.
This year has been tough for many Latino communities in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Hispanics in the U.S., and official relief efforts have left out hard working immigrant communities. That’s why it’s more important than ever to lift up these communities—and to recognize the amazing impact they have.
Hispanic Heritage Month: How It Got Started
In 1968, Hispanic Heritage Month was first established as a week of commemoration, with legislation passed under President Lyndon Johnson. It was eventually expanded to the current month-long tribute in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan.
This is a significant month for the Latin American communities in the U.S., along with independence day celebrations for Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile all falling between September 16 and 18. Additionally, Día de la Raza falls on October 12.
Latin American individuals have been in what is now the U.S. since the 1500s, making them one of the oldest and most established cultural communities in our diverse society. However, immigration from many different Latin American countries in the past century has greatly grown and diversified the Latin American culture and heritage in the U.S., providing even more reasons to celebrate this month.
Economic Impact in the U.S.
As of 2016, 57.5 million people of Hispanic origin live in the United States, making this community by far the nation’s largest ethnic minority. 17.8 percent of the country’s population traces their roots to Hispanic or Latin American ancestry, making this month of recognition extremely important to everyday life in almost every community!
Latin American individuals have made important contributions to the U.S. economy over their long history in this country. One of these contributions is in entrepreneurship. In 2015, Hispanic-owned businesses numbered 312,738 nationwide, and reported over $320 billion in sales (including over $60 billion in sales by woman-owned Hispanic businesses).
Here’s an LA-based company with a Latin American business owner who also gives back to communities in Mexico:
Latin Americans are becoming increasingly key to the country’s economy overall. In 2015, the Latin American workforce was responsible for 12 percent of the entire nation’s gross domestic product. By 2020, researchers estimate that Latin Americans will contribute to nearly a quarter of all GDP growth, and account for nearly 13 percent of the nation’s billions in goods produced and services provided.
Cultural Impact in the U.S.
The economy is only one measure of how Latin Americans have enriched the United States over centuries. As Spanish speakers now number upwards of 13 percent of the U.S. population, bilingualism and interest in the Spanish language have spread, especially in states like California, Texas, and Florida, where Hispanic communities make up a large part of the cultural landscape.
Interest in and availability of traditional Latin American foods have also grown greatly in recent years. Foods like chips and salsa, tacos, pupusas (El Salvador), arepas (Colombia), and the distinctive roast chicken of Peru are becoming takeout and eat-in staples in many metro areas. While providing a taste of home for the communities who run and host them, these establishments open a door tor everyone who is lucky enough to try a taste.
Across the country in many metro areas, large festivals celebrate important holidays and occasions, such as Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), Cinco de Mayo (commemorating the 1862 Battle of Puebla, and Mexican heritage), and Las Posadas (Latin American-style Christmas caroling).
With such a large percentage of Americans who have Latin American heritage, and with so many Latin American people contributing to the economy, it may come as no surprise that we celebrate many high-achieving Latin American public figures during this month as well.
Former United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; English- and Spanish-language journalist Jorge Ramos; artist, sculptor and museum curator Mari Carmen Ramirez; singer and actress Jennifer Lopez are just a very few of the important forces who have influenced public life in the U.S. over the past decades.
How to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month
Beginning in mid-September and continuing well into October, there are a number of ways you can honor your Hispanic and Latin American heritage in the U.S.
The most straightforward is to simply reflect on your own—and your neighbors’—unique culture and traditions.
Cook and share food, visit your favorite Hispanic-owned restaurants (or get takeout!) and make time to call home.
And if you’re moved to send some dinerito to honor your loved ones this month, Remitly makes it easy.