Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month

Celebrating Hispanic heritage began in 1968 when President Lyndon B. Johnson reserved a week to highlight the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens with Hispanic ancestors. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded this to a 31-day period from Sept. 15-Oct. 15. (Graphic courtesy of DEOMI)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Celebrating Hispanic heritage began in 1968 when President Lyndon B. Johnson reserved a week to highlight the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens with Hispanic ancestors.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded this to a 31-day period from Sept. 15-Oct. 15.

The observation begins Sept. 15 to mirror the anniversary of five Latin American countries gaining their independence – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile followed only a few days after. According to the 2014 census, Hispanics make up 17 percent of the U.S. population with 55 million American citizens. Despite people of Hispanic origin being the nation’s largest minority, in 2011 they made up only 7 percent of the science, technology, engineering, and math workforce.

Throughout America’s history, Hispanics have fought bravely for the United States in wars ranging from the Civil War to the Vietnam War with a reputation of being the first in and last out, often without recognition. President Barack Obama honored 24 Hispanic, Jewish, and African-American veterans in 2014 by awarding them with the Medal of Honor after being passed over originally for their racial or ethnic background. The United States continues to this day to fight for equal rights for all citizens, recognizing diversity as a main pillar of our country.

“The future of America is inextricably linked to the future of our Hispanic community. Our country thrives on the diversity and ingenuity of all our people, and our ability to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world will depend greatly on the success of Hispanics. This month, as we honor their struggles and successes, let us recommit to ensuring our Nation remains a place big enough and bold enough to accommodate the dreams and prosperity of all our people.” – President Barack Obama

Pvt. Joseph P. Martinez – First Hispanic-American to receive the Medal of Honor on May 23, 1943, for combat heroism during World War II.

Ellen Ochoa – Became the first Hispanic director of the Johnson Space Center in 2012, after being the first Hispanic woman to go to space on the Discovery in 1993.

Dr. France Anne Cordova – The youngest person to hold the position of NASA chief scientist, received NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal, and was the first Hispanic woman to serve as the president of Purdue University.

David G. Farragut – The first admiral in the U.S. Navy after Congress created the rank and awarded it to him following his Aug. 5, 1864, victory in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War.

Cesar Chavez – Prominent union leader, created National Farm Workers Association which used nonviolent methods to secure raises and improved conditions for farm workers in California, Texas, Arizona, and Florida. A U.S. Navy dry cargo/ammunition ship was named after him in 2012 to honor his efforts as a civil rights activist as well as a Navy veteran.

(Editor’s note: Information used for this article was retrieved from www.DEOMI.org.)