Why Does Hispanic Heritage Month Start on September 15th?

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
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Ever wonder why National Hispanic Heritage Month starts halfway through the month of September and not on the first like other affinity months? Or maybe you’re unsure which countries Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates? Find out the answers to these questions and more from members of Viva@ML, Macmillan Learning’s Hispanic/Latino/a/e/x employee resource group. 

Viva@ML is a community of colleagues, Hispanic/Latino/a/e/x and allies alike, working together to foster a sense of belonging and explore the cultural diversity of Macmillan Learning through outreach and education. To kickoff this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, they answered common employee questions about the affinity month. 


Why does Hispanic Heritage Month start on September 15th?

September 15th is the independence day for Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Mexico is right after, with their independence day celebrated on September 16th, followed by Chile and Belize on September 18th and 21st, respectively. With so many Latin American countries celebrating their independence in mid-September, President Lyndon B. Johnson recognized this time as Hispanic Heritage Week. (You can view all Latin American independence dates here.) In 1988, President Ronald Reagan moved to observe Hispanic heritage for a full 31 days, and President George H. W. Bush dedicated September 15th–October 15th as Hispanic Heritage Month in 1989. The United States has honored those four weeks since.


Does “Hispanic Heritage Month” include those who identify as Latino/a/e/x?

Short Answer: Yes! “Hispanic” was the term used in the US Census in the 1980s when Hispanic Heritage Month was created, but “Latino” was not added as an option until 2000, so it might be fair to say that the month’s name was dictated by the most recent term of the time! Viva is committed to ensuring that inclusion is at the heart of what we do, and we know that how everyone identifies can be an extra personal question in our community, so we welcome everyone with Hispanic and Latine origins to consider themselves part of our Viva community!


What is the difference between “Hispanic” and “Latino/a/e/x”?

“Hispanic” refers to Spanish-speaking countries or people from or whose ancestors are from areas/countries colonized by Spain, while “Latin” refers to ancestries in Latin America. Many of these countries and identities overlap, but a few do not! For example, Brazil gained its independence from Portugal, so while someone from Brazil or with Brazilian ancestry/heritage might identify as Latino, they would not be considered Hispanic.


What countries does Hispanic Heritage Month celebrate?

If you think of the distinction between Hispanic and Latin countries as a Venn diagram, some countries are Hispanic; some countries are Latin American; and some countries are both. However, Hispanic Heritage Month, which is strictly a US holiday, celebrates people with ancestry in all of these countries:

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela.