Hispanic Heritage Month, whose roots go back to 1968, begins each year on September 15, the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile and Belize also celebrate their independence days during this period and Columbus Day (Día de la Raza) is October 12.
The term Hispanic or Latino, refers to Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race. On the 2010 Census form, people of Spanish, Hispanic and/or Latino origin could identify themselves as Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or "another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin."
According to this Census, 50.5 million people or 16% of the population are of Hispanic or Latino origin. This represents a significant increase from 2000, which registered the Hispanic population at 35.3 million or 13% of the total U.S. population.
By 2050, the Hispanic population is expected to reach 28%. This population growth will impact everything from neighborhoods, school, government and the economy. Learning about Hispanic history and culture will be imperative to how Americans experience life in the future.
Hispanics, like African Americans have fought many battles for equality in the U.S. One Hispanic writer notes in the Huffington Post, “As Latinos, we recognize the impact he [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] had in inspiring Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers to adopt non-violence principles -- which King learned from Gandhi's struggles against the British in India -- in their long march for better working conditions and respectable wages for the migrant laborers of California's farmlands…
“Their rise into these positions of influence would not have been possible without the path forged by Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement, or the rising consciousness which fueled Hispanics in the 60's and 70's to listen, learn and act.”
One fallen Hispanic hero, Ruben Salazar, was honored on Aug. 29 in a ceremony by County Supervisor Gloria Molina and the Department of Parks and Recreation. A plaque was unveiled at an East Los Angeles Park in Whittier named for the L.A. Times journalist who lost his life covering the Chicano Moratorium anti-war protest.
“Ruben Salazar's life and death became emblematic of the Chicano Rights movement of the 1970s,” Molina said
This year marked the 44th anniversary of the death of Salazar.
“Ruben Salazar was a gifted chronicler and advocate who dedicated his talents to sharing with the world what it meant to be Mexican-American in a transformative time and place. His contributions made him an icon in the community — and although his life was cut tragically short, his legacy lives on in the people influenced, inspired and touched by his work,” Molina said.
An award-winning documentary “Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle” followed the ceremony.
Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations will be held in numerous places around Los Angeles county, including the Baja Splash Cultural Festival at the Aquarium of the Pacific (www.aquariumofpacific.org), 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802 from Sept. 28 to 29; and the 3rd Annual Taste of Mexico La Plaza de Cultura y Artes (www.thetasteofmexico.org), 501 N. Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90012, on Oct. 11.
Mixing culture, music, art, food and the biodiversity of Baja, Mexico, the 12th Annual Baja Splash Cultural Festival is a slightly different take on celebrating Hispanic heritage. The kids will enjoy all of the music and dance performances featuring folk dances from countries like Guatemala and El Salvador as well as Mexico.
At the La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown Los Angeles, the taste event is a sampling of foods from some of LA’s best Mexican restaurants and some from Mexico. Live mariachi and lots of other great entertainment will keep you moving your feet. Don’t forget all the tequila and craft mezcal tastings offered as well.
For more information about Hispanic Heritage Month, visit http://hispanicheritagemonth.gov.