Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of the Hispanic community and its relevance in the United States. Every year the Hispanic population increases. According to the United States Census Bureau, the Hispanic population in the United States was 600,572,237 people in 2019; an increase of 20% since 2010! Nevertheless, the impact of the Hispanic community goes beyond mere numbers. Its culture and traditions influence society and the economy.
The study “The Latino Influence Project” found Americans who live in Hispanic neighborhoods eat more Hispanics foods, listen to more Latin music and watch Latin American sports. Additionally, the study indicated Americans who live in Hispanic neighborhoods were more conscientious about the environment, and more interested in other cultures and travelling the world. For this reason, when speaking of the Hispanic community, one is acknowledging the contributions and opportunities this community generates in the future successes of the United States.
The Latino community has demonstrated they are not taking away jobs from Americans. On the contrary, they play a vital role in the US economy. Latino businesses, both small and large, generate a great number of job opportunities for people, regardless of their origin. According to the U.S Senate, Latinos own 3.2 million businesses in the United States and produce 500 billion dollars annually. Nevertheless, the impact of the Hispanic community goes beyond numbers. Their culture and traditions contribute to social and financial matters. Indeed, the Latino determination to succeed has led to an increase of 46% in Latino businesses between 2007 and 2012. This is the fastest growth rate as compared to any other ethnic group.
According to the New American Economy, over 1.2 million Mexicans and Mexican-Americans are entrepreneurs. That is a larger amount compared to Asians and Pacific Islanders. The Latino community also plays a vital role in the U.S workforce. Their contribution is evident. Close to 16% of the U.S workforce is made up of Latinos which represents a total of 25 million people.
Currently, Spanish is the second most spoken language in the United States among people over 5 years of age. Nevertheless, the Hispanic cultural impact goes beyond the language. Especially when it comes to art. There are plenty of literature festivals, photography, and museums that provide room for Latin American art. But also, the support from the Hispanic community makes it possible for some of these places to exist. An example of this is the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). It was built with the donation of several millions of dollars by Latino, Jorge Perez.
Jorge Perez is an Argentinian entrepreneur of Cuban descent. He made it possible for the museum to be a space for modern and contemporary art of the 20th and 21st century. The museum displays pieces from America and the rest of the world.
The Mexican Museum of San Francisco, California is another example. This museum was created with the purpose of showing Mexican and Latin American art. The museum displays over 17 thousand art pieces by artists like Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Francisco Zuniga, Manuel Neri, Vicente Rojo, and hundreds of pre-Columbian pieces.
In the literature field, there are outstanding Latin American writers who migrated to the U.S. as well as writers of Latin American descent. Such is the case of Peruvian, Daniel Alarcon, who has lived in several cities in the U.S. since he was little. A major part of his work revolves around migration and capturing Latino culture in the U.S. He is one of the most renowned professors at Columbia University in New York. Another example is Junot Diaz. He was born in Dominican Republic and grew up in the U.S. He is one of the few Hispanics to win the Pulitzer Prize. His award-winning novel is La Breve y Maravillosa Vida de Oscar Wao. Díaz's work depicts migrant families, the American Dream, and Caribbean culture.
One of the current movements that caught the attention of Latinos in the last months is Black Lives Matter. This movement advocates against police brutality towards Black people. Latinos have joined the Black Lives Matter protests to show their support in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Philadelphia. They also joined these protests to show that they too are affected and targeted disproportionately by law enforcement. In one of the protests in Phoenix, Arizona, some activists were wearing masks that stated “Defund the Police”. Notably, the last 3 letters of “Police” were printed in red, referencing Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In September of 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed National Hispanic Heritage Week as a celebration of the culture and contribution descendants of Spanish-speaking countries in America and Spain give to the United States. Two decades later, the U.S Congress extended the celebration to a month from September 15th to October 15th.
Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15th, a historic date that marks the anniversary of the independence of Latin American countries such as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. It also lands on the day before the anniversary of Mexican Independence: September the 16th. During those 4 weeks, the press, non-profit organizations, cultural institutions, and businesses organize events to celebrate Hispanic heritage and show how much they contribute to the United States.