Symbols, heroes, rituals, and values are all elements that define a culture and manifest themselves in the everyday lives of Americans. For our nation, these elements have been influenced by every ethnic group with roots in this country. Such is the case with Hispanic and Latino Americans whose origins can be traced back to the Spanish in the 1500s, indigenous Mexican Indians, and other persons of mixed European and American Indian ancestry such as the Mestizo people that occupied former Mexican territory; and whose histories along with many others are recognized every year during Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15).
Established in 1968 under Lyndon Johnson’s presidency and later extended in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan, Hispanic Heritage Month set out to recognize the histories, cultures and contributions made by American citizens of Spanish, Mexican, Caribbean, Central and South American descent. This period is significant to many countries because it coincides with independence days of several Latin American countries including: Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.
However, apart from the historically significant days that fall throughout this month, I enjoy commemorating those individuals of Hispanic and Latin American descent that have contributed not only to our country’s multiculturalism but also to the diversity of America’s pop culture. Such as, engineer and former astronaut Ellen Ochoa; acclaimed author Sandra Cisneros whose debut novel The House on Mango Street became the first book I read in one sitting; actress Rita Moreno and the unquestionable talent that made her the first and only female to this day to have won an Oscar, Grammy, Emmy, and Tony award; and finally Margarita Carmen Cansino a.ka. Rita Hayworth who gave us a swoon-worthy moonlit dance sequence alongside Fred Astaire in the movie You Were Never Lovelier.
It is this amalgamation that makes our country great and has played and will continue to play a part in defining our nation's history. Therefore, take a moment during Hispanic Heritage Month and remember those individuals who make this country great and whose contributions have shaped us in some way.
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