With nearly a quarter of the U.S. population identifying as Hispanic or Latino, Hispanic Heritage Month is an important time to recognize our colleagues, customers and neighbors as we reflect on the many ways Hispanic and Latin American cultures have influenced our daily lives.

What began as a weeklong celebration honoring contributions of Hispanic Americans in 1968 turned into a full month-long celebration in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. The celebratory month begins on September 15 to commemorate Independence Days for multiple Latin American countries, like Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Other Latin American countries, such as Mexico, Chile and Belize, celebrate their Independence in the days that follow as well.

You can take part in Hispanic Heritage Month by learning about the major contributions of Hispanic Americans and the Latino community at the official Hispanic Heritage Month website, by participating in the Smithsonian’s virtual events  or by watching films on the achievements of Hispanic Americans at PBS.

You can also find out more about notable Hispanic Americans that helped pave the way for others, like civil rights leaders Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, or famous baseball player Roberto Clemente, and Henry Cisneros, the first Hispanic mayor of a major U.S. city (San Antonio) and who served as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1993 to 1997. Read more about other inspiring Hispanic Americans and Latinos at the National Constitution Center or the National Park Service.

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