The Hispanic or Latino population grew in the United States from 50.5 million (16.3% of the U.S. population) in 2010 to 62.1 million (18.7%) in 2020. Here in Maryland, more than 11% of the population of the state is made of people who are Hispanic or Latino.

A month long celebration of Hispanic and Latino culture starts on September 15. Hispanic Heritage Month was originally a week long celebration.

We spoke to Dr. Isabella Alcañiz, the director of the University of Maryland’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center about the origins of the month,

The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period.

The month celebrates the history, culture and contributions of Hispanic Americans. The start of the month is significant because it’s the anniversary of Independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18.

Dr. Alañiz said that the month is important, “You know, in terms of socialization, especially through education through public education, when, when there is official calendar, that, that points to the achievement, and the contributions of minoritized group in the United States, what happens is that all federal agencies, national institutions, and especially public education, you know, from kindergarten to high school, have, in this case, a month long of curriculum that is dedicated to these achievements and contributions.”

She goes on to say this signals Hispanic Americans are still a vulnerable group.

“You don’t get a calendar month, to celebrate your achievements, when you are part of the, you know, dominant majority group. Be it a demographically, or, you know, any other major identity, that that make these groups. So it does, it does tell us that there’s still a way to go.”