Did you know that Latinos make up over 22% of the Bay Area? In addition, over a million people living in California today are descended from the original Californios, Mexican and Spanish settlers who settled the area and set up ranches, missions and cities throughout the state. All in all, Hispanic history and Latino heritage play a vital role in the very fabric of California history.
Over time, California has welcomed newcomers from all over Latin America: from the braceros from Mexico starting in the 1940’s, to our Caribbean friends from places like Puerto Rico and Cuba in the 70’s and 80’s, to most recently, refugees from Central America who are looking for safety and a better life. Over time, our state has benefitted from this influx of new people – not only in the form of cultural festivals and new cuisines to experience, but in the way that it enriches the societal tapestry of our state.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated every year from September 15th – October 15th. In 1968, congress authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to declare Hispanic Heritage week. Later, the recognition was expanded to a month under the Reagan administration. The reason Hispanic Heritage month starts midway through the month is that the days of independence for several nations take place in mid-September.
September 15th is the day of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. September 16th is the day Mexico recognizes as Independence Day. Chile celebrates their national holiday on September 18th, followed by Belize on the 21st.
So, whether we use the terms Hispanic or Latino/a/x, Mexican-American or Chicano, Central American or Guatemalan, we are united by a common mother language and culture. We share more similarities than differences, and we are proud to lift each other up. Let’s remember that this month and all the rest of the year.
At Alameda County Library, we strive to recognize the differences between the different countries and cultures of Latin America while also celebrating the similarities that unite us. In keeping with that feeling of unity, our libraries are hosting programs, displays, story times and crafts all throughout September and October. Just a few examples include:
- Newark: Mental Health workshops in Spanish for the Latino community
- Fremont: Interactive displays, scavenger hunts, and crafts
- Centerville and Union City: Bilingual Spanish/English story times