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Hispanic Heritage Month History in the United States

En Español

By Rebekah Kates Lemke and Mariana De Maio

Each year, the United States honors the contributions that Latinos have made to our country with a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration that runs from September 15 to October 15. This annual month long celebration began 26 years ago, but its inception stretches back farther. Congress first passed a resolution to celebrate Hispanic heritage at the national level as a weeklong event on September 17, 1968. Nearly 20 years later, on August 17, 1988, President Ronald Reagan stretched the celebrations to a month, from September 15 to October 15.

Hispanic Heritage Month Poster

Artwork by Guy Arceneaux/CRS

National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed in the United States, Canada, and Latin America. September 15 was chosen as the start date in order to coincide with the Independence Day celebrations of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile observe their independence on September 16 and September 18, respectively.

Catholic Relief Services recognizes that more than half of the Hispanics in the U.S. are Catholic and is honored to join in celebrating and paying tribute to the diversity of cultures and accomplishments within the Latino community. The support of Latinos is crucial to our work as the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community.

CRS has been intimately linked with Latin America throughout the organization's history. In fact, our very first project in 1943 began when Colonia Santa Rosa, in Guanajuato, Mexico, gave shelter to 709 Polish refugees that we helped place. This began a shared history that continues more than 70 years later. Then, as now, our mission was to assist the poor and suffering on the basis of need, without regard to creed, race or nationality. Find out more about CRS' work in Latin America.

Throughout the history of the United States, people have come from various parts of the globe and have contributed to build this nation where we live today. Commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month gives us an opportunity not only to feel proud of our roots, but also to share with those who are not Hispanic the richness and diversity of the various Latin American cultures.

10 Interesting Statistics about Hispanics in the US.*

  1. The U.S. Hispanic population now stands at more than 54.1 million, making them the second-largest racial or ethnic group in the U.S.
  2. Hispanics make up 17% of the U.S. population. That's up from 5% in 1970.
  3. It is estimated that by the year 2060, the Hispanic population in the United States will grow to 128.8 million and will constitute approximately 31% of the population.
  4. About 55% of Latino adults say they are Catholic, while 16% are evangelical Protestants and 5% are mainline Protestants (2013.)
  5. People of Mexican origin account for two-thirds (34 million) of the nation's Latinos.
  6. Latinos make up the largest group of immigrants in most states, mostly because Mexico is the biggest source of immigrants in 33 states. In some states, though, other Hispanic groups are the largest: El Salvador is the top country of birth among immigrants in Virginia and Maryland, the Dominican Republic leads in New York and Rhode Island and Cuba is the top place of birth for immigrants in Florida.
  7. There were eight states with a population of 1 million or more Hispanic residents in 2013 — Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas.
  8. Latinos are the youngest of the major racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. At 27, the median age of Latinos is a full decade lower than that of the U.S. overall (37 years).
  9. Among Latinos, there is a sizable difference in median age between the U.S-born (18 years) and foreign born (40 years).
  10. From 1993 to 2013, the number of Latinos younger than 18 in the U.S. more than doubled (107% increase), compared with an 11% increase among the general U.S. population younger than 18, according to the Census Bureau data.

*Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project Statistics&U.S. Census Bureau

Rebekah Kates Lemke is a web producer for Catholic Relief Services. She is based in Baltimore, Maryland.
Mariana De Maio is a former CRS writer, editor and web producer.

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