Hispanic Heritage Month: How Will You Celebrate It?

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Today is no typical Monday. No, today we celebrate – for it is the start of Mes de la Herencia Hispana, also known as Hispanic Heritage Month!

This celebration of Hispanic culture and contributions dates back to 1968 when it was started under President Lyndon Johnson. In 1988, the observation was expanded from a week to a month and enacted into law by President Ronald Reagan. This past week, the White House issued its own proclamation honoring “the rich heritage of the Hispanic community and … its countless achievements.” The celebration begins on September 15 because today marks the independence day of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua (Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence on September 16).

The theme of this year’s celebration, “Hispanics: A legacy of history, a present of action and a future of success,” brings to mind the many ways this rich and vibrant community has – and continues to – influence every facet of American culture. The numbers speak for themselves.

We at Smartling would like to acknowledge these accomplishments and kick off Hispanic Heritage month 2014 celebrating some of the most impressive public figures to come out of this 52-million strong (and growing!) community. And be sure to join us all this month for a series of informational posts on Latino culture, its impact on and permeation of the American mainstream, and the opportunity this community holds for modern businesses.

  1. In 2009, Sonia Sotomayer became the first Latina Supreme Court Justice. In a 2013 interview with Oprah she remembered her nomination saying, “It was the most electrifying moment of my life … a moment in which you sit and realize that you’ve gone further than any dream you ever had, that you’ve reached something that never seemed possible. It is an overwhelming moment.” Read more inspiring quotes from Sotomayer.
  2. The Chicano movement in the 1960s represented the Mexican American farmworkers’ fight for their rights. Their leader César Chávez drew inspiration from the principles of non-violence of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. The César Chávez Foundation continues Chávez’s work to this day.
  3. Hispanics represent 18% of the moviegoing population, but accounted for 25% of all movies seen. Still, they continue to be underrepresented in top movie and television programming. But things may be changing for the better on this front – this year, director/producer and fourth generation Mexican-American Robert Rodriguez launched his own television network, El Rey, to address the lack of Latino-themed programming in the United States.
  4. Oscar Hijuelos was the first Hispanic author to win the Pulitzer Prize for his 1989 novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Junot Díaz became the second Latino to win the Pulitzer for fiction for his novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2008). You can find an excellent list of Latino authors here.
  5. Recognition for Latino art is increasing in the U.S. In the autumn of 2017 alone, Southern California will see 46 exhibitions and events devoted to Latin American artists and designers. Back in the 1960s and 70s, America saw an explosion of Latino art surrounding El Movimiento, the Chicano movement, which inspired Latinos from Southern California to Chicago to New York City to use art to express their socio-political beliefs and reflect on their Mexican heritage. Carlos Alamaraz was a street artist and one of the early proponents of the Chicano Movement.