September 15th to October 15th
Hispanic Heritage Month began as Hispanic Heritage Week. Hispanic Week was established by legislation sponsored by Rep. Edward R. Roybal of Los Angeles and was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968.
In 1988, the commemorative week was expanded to a month (September 15 to October 15) by legislation sponsored by Rep. Esteban Edward Torres (D–Pico Rivera, CA), amended by Senator Paul Simon, and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. September 15 was chosen as the starting point for the commemoration because it is the anniversary of the Cry of Dolores (early morning, 16 September 1810), which marked the start of the Mexican War of Independence and thus resulted (in 1821) in independence for the New Spain Colony (now Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua).
Hispanic Heritage Week was first proclaimed by President Johnson in 1968 in Presidential Proclamation 3869. Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan gave annual proclamations for Hispanic Heritage Week between 1969 and 1988.
National Hispanic Heritage Month was first proclaimed by President George H. W. Bush on September 14, 1989, in Presidential Proclamation 6021. Since 1989, all Presidents have given a Presidential Proclamation to mark Hispanic Heritage Month.
The American Hispanic/Latinx history is a rich, diverse and long one, with immigrants, refugees and Spanish-speaking or Indigenous people living in the United States since long before the nation was established.
And, bringing with them traditions and culture from Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and other Latin American and Iberian nations, America’s Hispanic population continues to grow, reaching a record 60.6 million in 2019, or 18 percent of the U.S. population.
Notable events in U.S. Hispanic and Latinx history.
July 2, 1964: The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 becomes law, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and outlawing discrimination based on race, sex, religion, color or national origin. The act also creates the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enforce federal job discrimination laws. One immediate effect of the act: an end to segregated facilities requiring Black Americans and Mexican-Americans to use only designated areas.
March 17, 1966: Cesar Chavez, general director of the National Farm Workers Association, leads 75 Latino and Filipino farm workers on a historic 340-mile march from Delano, California to the state capitol in Sacramento. Drawing attention to the demands of grape growers, the march, held at the onset of a strike that would last five years, lasts 25 days, and upon arrival in Sacramento on Easter Sunday, the group is met by a crowd of 10,000. Later that summer, the NFWA merges with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to form the United Farm Workers union that affiliates with the AFL-CIO.
April 16, 1973: The Dade County Commission unanimously passes a resolution from Miami’s mayor making Spanish the city’s second official language and creating a department of bilingual and bicultural affairs. In 1974, the Florida city is home to 350,000 Cubans who have been fleeing the country under Fidel Castro’s regime for more than 15 years.
November 8, 1973: Maurice A. Ferré is elected Miami’s first Hispanic mayor, also becoming the first Puerto Rican to lead a major U.S. mainland city.
Aug. 6, 1975: President Gerald Ford extends the Voting Rights Act of 1965, with the amended Section 203 mandating that bilingual ballots be provided in certain areas.
April 20, 1980: Fidel Castro announces that Cuban citizens may immigrate to Florida from the port of Mariel with their own arranged boat transport. In the months that follow, 125,000 Cubans flee the country, in what came to be called the Mariel Boatlift. Many of the immigrants were law-abiding citizens and families, but others, called “marielitos” were prisoners, criminals and the mentally ill sent by Castro, causing President Jimmy Carter political woes.
Nov. 6, 1986: President Ronald Reagan signs the Immigration Reform and Control Act into law, granting 2.7 million long-term immigrants permanent legal status, but also imposing restrictions, increasing border security and making it illegal for employers to knowingly hire unauthorized workers.
Multiple Firsts in White House Cabinets
Sept. 21, 1988: Dr. Lauro Cavazos, a Texan, is sworn in by Vice President George H.W. Bush as secretary of education, making him the first Hispanic to serve in a presidential cabinet.
Aug. 29, 1989: Cuban immigrant Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress, later becoming the first woman to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Over 30 years—15 terms—the Republican from Miami served in the Florida House and Senate before representing the state’s 110th District.
1990: Dr. Antonia Novello is appointed the first women and first Hispanic U.S. surgeon general under Bush.
1993: Ellen Ochoa becomes the first Hispanic woman to travel to outer space.
Jan. 22, 1993: Federico Pena, who previously served as Denver’s first Hispanic mayor, is confirmed by the Senate as U.S. Secretary of Transportation under the nomination of President Bill Clinton, making him the first Hispanic to hold the position. He also spends two years as the first Hispanic Secretary of Energy under Clinton, immediately followed in that role by another Hispanic, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
Jan. 1, 1994: The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S., Mexico and Canada takes effect, establishing a North American trade-free zone and lifting tariffs of most goods. It’s replaced, in 2020, by the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
Aug. 8, 2009: Sonia Sotomayor is sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts as the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice and the third woman to serve on the court. Raised in a housing project in the South Bronx, N.Y., she is the daughter of Puerto Rican parents and previously served on the board of directors for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.
2013: Joaquin Castro elected to represent Texas’s 20th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives.
2014: Julián Castro was the youngest member of President Obama’s cabinet, serving as the 16th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 2014 to 2017. Castro served as the mayor of his native San Antonio, Texas from 2009 until he joined Barack Obama’s cabinet in 2014.