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History behind Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates and recognizes the contributions Hispanic Americans have made to American society and culture and to honor five of our Central American neighbors who celebrate their independence in September.

National Hispanic Heritage Month had its origins in 1968 when Congress passed Pub. L. 90-498 (PDF, 153KB), which authorized and requested the President to issue an annual proclamation designating the week including September 15 and 16 as National Hispanic Heritage Week. By directing that this week should include September 15 and 16, this law celebrated Hispanic Americans and the anniversaries of independence for the Latin American countries of Costa Rico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua as well as Mexico’s independence on September 16. President Lyndon Johnson issued the first such proclamation, Presidential Proclamation 3869, which stated in part:

Wishing to pay special tribute to the Hispanic tradition, and having in mind the fact that our five Central American neighbors celebrate their Independence Day on the fifteenth of September and the Republic of Mexico on the sixteenth, the Congress by House Joint Resolution 1299, has requested the President to issue annually a proclamation designating the week including September 15 and 16 as National Hispanic Heritage Week.

Between 1969 and 1988 Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan issued a series of annual proclamations that designated a week in September including September 15 and 16 as National Hispanic Heritage Week. These proclamations celebrated the contributions to America of men and women of Hispanic origin as well as recalling the work of the early Spanish explorers and settlers.

In 1988 Congress passed Pub. L. 100-402 (PDF, 58KB) which amended Pub. L. 90-498 (PDF, 153 KB) and established National Hispanic Heritage Month. The President was again authorized and requested to issue an annual proclamation designating the “31-day period beginning September 15 and ending on October 15” as National Hispanic Heritage Month. President George H.W. Bush issued the first proclamation, Presidential Proclamation 6021, for National Hispanic Heritage Month on September 14, 1989. Between 1990 and 2009 Presidents George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have issued annual proclamations for National Hispanic Heritage Month. On September 14, 1994, President Clinton issued Presidential Proclamation 6719, which recognized the extraordinary contributions and culture of Hispanic Americans. Most recently on September 18, 2009, President Obama issued Presidential Proclamation 8417 (PDF) proclaiming National Hispanic Heritage Month for 2009 to celebrate and honor the accomplishments of Hispanic Americans.