Hispanic Heritage Month

by Mary Beth Newbill, Southern History Department, Central Library

The contributions and accomplishments of Hispanic Americans are celebrated each year from September 15 to October 15. This time is officially designated as National Hispanic Heritage Month. The celebration first began as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 at the request of Congress and was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The week-long celebration was extended to a month on August 17, 1988, by President Ronald Reagan.

The influence of Hispanic cultures is deeply felt throughout the southeastern United States. Mobile, Florida, and Louisiana have all been under Spanish rule at various points in time. The effects of Spain’s early explorations to North America can still be observed in place names, architecture, religion, and many other ways. The oldest European settlement in the United States is St. Augustine, FL, settled by the Spanish in 1565 (that’s 42 years before Jamestown and 55 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth).

More recently, cultural influences from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean have become integral to everyday life in the United States. With Hispanic and Latin Americans making up 18% of the U.S. population, their impact on film, art, music, sports, food, etc. is enormous.

For anyone wanting to learn more about their Hispanic heritage, the library’s Southern History Department has many books to help you. Some good ones to start with are Finding Your Hispanic Roots by George Ryskamp and the Hispanic American Genealogical Sourcebook by Paula K. Byers. We also have titles such as My Heart Is in the Earth: True Stories of Alabama and Mexico and Coraz√≥n de Dixie: Mexicanos in the U.S. South since 1910.

Check out our newest subject guide on Hispanic Heritage for more titles, websites, and information about National Hispanic Heritage Month.