National Hispanic Heritage Month is the period from September 15 to October 15 in the United States, when people recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate the group’s heritage and culture. Hispanic Heritage Week was approved by president Lyndon Johnson in 1968 and the length of it was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period (September 15 – October 15). It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988 on the approval of Public Law 100-402. September 15 was chosen as the starting point for the celebration because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. All declared independence in 1821. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18, and September 21, respectively.
Hispanic Heritage Month also celebrates the long and important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans in North America, starting with the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus on the morning of October 12, 1492. A map of late 18th-century North America shows this presence, from the small outpost of San Francisco founded in the desolate wilderness of Alta California in 1776, through the Spanish province of Texas with its vaqueros (cowboys), to the fortress of St. Augustine, Florida — the first continuous European settlement in North America, founded in 1565, forty-two years before the English landed in Jamestown, Virginia.
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