The contributions of Hispanics in the United States are many, and in an effort to recognize and celebrate those who helped shaped this nation, President Lyndon B. Johnson instituted Nation Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968.
This provided activities and ceremonies to create awareness of the very great part Hispanic Americans have had to play in adding to the prosperity and importance of this country. And then in 1988, the weeklong observance was extended into National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Rather than last for a certain month, Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15. This date was chosen as it is the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence in this period and the month also ends after Columbus Day and the Day of the Races, which is a cultural and public holiday in many Latin American countries.
The monthlong period is a time to learn about the people who have influenced America in such a great way and learn about the culture that has significantly influenced American culture.
During the month Hispanic Heritage is celebrated in many ways, with events such as parades, concerts and traditional Hispanic food fairs.
The term Hispanic was coined as a way to classify those people of Latin American and Spanish origin, whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. The term is often used incorrectly in the United States as a racial classification instead of a regional one.
Someone who is Hispanic can be of Indian, African, European, or Asian descent and because of the stereotypes and misconceptions, there are many Hispanics that are not recognized as such. Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman), Frankie Muniz (Malcolm in the Middle), and Jean-Michel Basquiat, are all of Hispanic ancestry but are never regarded as Hispanic.
There are words that we use on a regular basis that we never think to have a Spanish origin. Many words like mosquito or oregano are used in the English language in their original Spanish spelling and pronunciation, but there are some, like the following, that have been altered.
- Savvy:saber, to know
- Tornado:tornar, to turn, tronada, thunderstorm
- Bronco: meaning wild or rough
- Comrade:camarada, old Spanish for barracks company or roommate
- Mustang:mestengo or mesteño, a stray animal
And there are some words that have a literal translation. Words like: aficionado, armada, barracuda, mosquito, tobacco, and vanilla.