Art of Life/Donna Parker

columnist

Let’s Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month 2021

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Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 through October 15, by celebrating the impact and contributions of Hispanics and Latinos to the United States and those American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. The celebration was created to recognize the positive impact that Hispanic Americans have left on the country.

The 2021 Hispanic Heritage Month observance theme: “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.” … invites us to celebrate Hispanic Heritage and to reflect on how great our tomorrow can be if we hold onto our resilience and hope. It encourages us to reflect on all of the contributions Hispanics have made in the past, and will continue to make in the future. It is also a reminder that we are stronger together. And by “Hispanic Americans,” we mean those who self-identify as Hispanic. (The terms Hispanic and Latino are not quite interchangeable, though many people identify as both.) It is a period meant for recognition, education, and celebration, similar to Black History Month in February, Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, or LGBTQ Pride Month in June.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Hispanic population is 60.6 million as of July 1, 2019, "making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority." That's 18.5 percent of the nation’s total population, with a median age of 29.8 years. These estimates are largely based on the Census question that asks people to self-identify whether or not they are "of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin."

Why is the celebration split over two months, starting on September 15? As cited in President Johnson's 1968 Proclamation, September 15th coincides with the national independence days for many Latin American countries, — including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua —that earned their independence from Spain in 1821. Mexico, Chile, and Belize became independent on September 16th, 18th, and 21st from Spain and the United Kingdom, respectively. Thus, the mid-September date held firm when it was extended from a week to a month.

The month is celebrated nationwide through festivals, parades, art shows, conferences, community gatherings, and much more. You may choose to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with any number of local Madison events and activities, such as enjoying food native to countries and territories such as Argentina, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, at local restaurants. Or attend one of the Madison Public Library events highlighting the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans. Or Attend the Latino Art Show held annually at the Overture Center. Check on line for all the details, but most importantly Get In on the Celebration!