Between September 15 and October 15, we celebrate the contributions, cultures, and histories of our Hispanic and Latino American populations. The U.S. Census Bureau identifies Hispanic or Latino Americans from the parts of the world that they or their ancestors originate. This could be Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spain, or the nations of Central or South America. The U.S. Census Bureau has estimated that as of July 1, 2015, there were about 56.6 million Hispanics living in the United States.
This represents 17.6% of the total U.S. population, making those of Hispanic origin the nation's largest ethnic or racial minority. By 2060, the projected Hispanic population within the United States is expected to be 119 million, which would be 28.6 percent of the nation's population.
The origins of this celebration began in 1968 when it was known as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson. It was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15 and was officially enacted as a law that same year. The date of September 15 was chosen as the first day of this celebratory month because it is the anniversary of the independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. On September 16 and 18, Mexico and Chile, respectively, celebrate their independence.
Photo: Judge Sonia Sotomayor in 2009. Stacey Ilyse Photography, White House Flickr Website.
The Davenport University Libraries are the recipients of a special grant, Latino Americans: 500 Years of History, which has enabled us to purchase a selection of Latino American items for our collection. The grant was sponsored jointly by the American Library Association (ALA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and celebrates the rich cultural history of the largest minority group in the U.S. As one of 200 grantees who received funding for this event, Davenport University Libraries are contributing to a nationwide public programming initiative to bring attention to the Latino American population.