At Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland (MOWCM), we look forward to celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month- a dedicated time every September 15th-October 15th to honor the cultures, experiences, and stories of Hispanic and Latino Americans. It is an acknowledgement of the past, a celebration of the present, and a look towards a bright future. The National Council of Hispanic Employment Program has deemed this year’s theme as, “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope”. The theme is meant to highlight the resilience of the Hispanic community and remind everyone to celebrate difference while also uniting together.
Hispanic Heritage Month first began as a one-week celebration. The idea was introduced by California Congressperson George E. Brown in June 1968. Mr. Brown represented many Hispanic and Latino people in the San Gabriel Valley in East Los Angeles. Three months later, on September 17th, 1968, Congress passed Public Law 90-48. This statue authorized and requested that the President issue an annual proclamation for the start of a National Hispanic Heritage Week. Then-President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the very first Presidential proclamation for the week that day. From 1968-1988, every President made yearly proclamations. In 1987, US Representative Esteban E. Torres (CA) proposed expanding the celebration to one month. The next year in 1988, Senator Paul Simon (IL) put forth a similar bill. It was this bill that was signed on August 17th, 1988 creating National Hispanic Heritage Month.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is split between September and October. The timing was intentional in order to coincide with the Independence Days of several countries including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua (all September 15th, 1821), Mexico (September 16th, 1810), Chile (September 18th, 1810), and Belize (September 21st, 1981).
The Hispanic and Latino population in the United States is vast and diverse, making up the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority with 60.6 million people (as of July 1, 2019) and 18.5% of the total population. At MOWCM we acknowledge the challenges of the past and present, standing with our Hispanic and Latino population in the face of adversity while also celebrating their incredible joys.