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National Hispanic Heritage Month

In the United States the designation of a time to celebrate Hispanic Heritage started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15 and became law on August 17, 1988. The date September 15 is significant for being the anniversary of the independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The other Central and South American nations attained independence within the few weeks following.

During Hispanic Heritage Month we recognize the contributions, honor the achievements and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the Americas and celebrate their heritage and culture. Teaching of the contributions of Hispanic Americans and learning about the cultures from which they come, is the highlight of many classroom activities and discussions as students across the United States recognize Hispanic Heritage Month.

According to this US Census, 50.5 million people or 16% of the population are of Hispanic or Latino origin. At 48 million, Hispanics constitute 16 percent of the U.S. population as of 2010. Considered the fastest-growing minority group, the Census bureau projects that the U.S. Hispanic population will reach 102.6 million by 2050.

Many Hispanic Americans trace their roots to the cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Americas such as the Arawak of Puerto Rico, the Aztecs of Mexico, the Incas of South America, the Maya of Central America, and the Tainos of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Some trace their roots to the Spanish explorers and others trace their roots to the Africans who were brought as slaves to the Americas. The U.S. Census identifies Hispanic Americans today by the parts of the world that they or their ancestors came from, including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spain, or the nations of Central or South America.

Hispanics are a very diverse and complex people, individual in our own nationalities yet intimately tied to each other through history, religion and cultural similarities. Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate and honor the ancestry and traditions that are unique to the Hispanic Culture. It is also a time to learn more about what contributions Hispanics have made to the United States.

Here I have listed some famous Latin Americans and their accomplishments, though there are countless more.

Juan Ruiz de Alarcón y Mendoza (1581-1639), México. One of the most important playwrights of Spain's 17th-century Golden Age

Isabel Allende. (1941- ) Chile. Writer. Awards: National Prize for Literature, American Book Awards, Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service

Oscar Arias (1941- ) Costa Rica. The Nobel Peace Prize for 1987 was awarded to this man who was President of Costa Rica at the time

Simon Bolivar (1783-1830) Venezuela. Liberator and Statesman

José Raúl Capablanca (1888–1942), Cuba. World Chess Champion

César Chávez (1927-1993), US. Labor Leader

Franklin Chang Diaz (1950- ) Costa Rica. Physicist, Astronaut

Rubén Darío (1867-1916), Nicaragua. Poet

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695) Mexico. Writer, Women's Rights Activist, Nun

James Glasgow Farragut (1801-1870) Farragut, Tennessee. Admiral US Navy

Carlos Fuentes Macias (1928-2012) Mexico. Writer, Essayist

Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014) Colombia. Journalist, Novelist. Nobel Prize in Literature 1982.

Ernesto “Che” Guevara (1928-1967) Argentina. Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) Mexico. Painter

Rigoberta Menchu (1959- ) Guatemala. Activist and Indigenous Leader

Mario Molina. (1943- ) Mexico, US. Chemist. The first Mexican-born citizen to receive a Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Pablo Neruda (1904-1073) Chile. Poet. Nobel Prize in Literature, 1971

Ellen Ochoa (1958- ) US. Astronaut and director of The Johnson Space Center

Octavio Paz (1914-1998), Mexico. Nobel Prize for Literature, 1990

Diego Rivera (1886-1957) Mexico. Painter, Muralist. Husband of Frida Kahlo

Carlos Santana (1947- ) Mexico, US. Musician

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