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.  

Here’s a brief history of what Hispanic Heritage Month is, how Hispanics and the Latin American community has contributed to the U.S. economy and cultural diversity in the U.S., as well as how you can participate in celebrations this month.

History of National Hispanic Heritage Month

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.

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Sports, cultural interests, and traditions from around Latin America can be explored through Univisión and Telemundo media, which broadcast nationwide. 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.

The theme of Hispanic Heritage Month 2018 is One Endless Voice to Enhance Our Traditions. Aissha Hernandez-Ramos, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in San Juan, Puerto Rico, submitted the winning theme, and had the following to say:

“Although Hispanics share so much, we do also have very unique characteristics; and that enhances us as a group.”

From Puerto Rico to Brazil, to Guyana to Chile, Latin American families share a great deal of history and geography in their heritage, yet also have so much to learn and share with each other as well as with their non-Latin American neighbors. Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time to put this sharing and learning into practice with those around us.

If you’d like to get out and celebrate in your community, many major metro areas will be hosting celebrations throughout the month:

  • New York City has a schedule of fun events to check out.
  • Denver has put together an entire month’s calendar of film screenings, art, and dance events, together with honoring Latin American members of the community.
  • Charlotte, NC will be presenting the 7th annual Hola Charlotte Festival on October 6th, expecting 60,000 attendees.

If you aren’t able to make it to events in your area, follow the #HispanicHeritageMonth hashtag on Twitter to see how people around the world are celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in their community. You can also participate in Hispanic Heritage Month by shopping online at Latin American-owned businesses.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to recognize the diverse and fascinating cultures of our Latin American customers who all make the United States so strong and unique. We admire the great sacrifices our customers have made for their families, and we’re proud to help you send money home to your loved ones.

How do you plan on celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month? Share with us in the comments!