Hispanic Heritage Month was officially announced through Proclamation 5859 by President Ronald Reagan on September 18, 1988 at a White House Rose Garden ceremony. In this proclamation President Reagan stated "Now, Therefore, I RONALD REAGAN, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the week beginning September 11, 1988, as National Hispanic Heritage Week. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this week with appropriate ceremonies and activities."
At this White House ceremony President Reagan recognized Colonel Gil Coronado as the "Father of Hispanic Heritage Month" for his efforts in leading the campaign to expand the commemoration from one week to one month. President Reagan remarked "And I'm honored to welcome Colonel Gil Coronado. Due to his efforts, we're not just here to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Week, but to announce that, in 1989, the period between September 15th and October 15th will be Hispanic Heritage Month. It's an honor well-deserved. And you can thank Colonel Coronado, who's been a stout defender of his Hispanic heritage and the United States of America. You know, Gil has so many medals and awards on his chest I'm amazed he can stand up straight . . . " Also in attendance at this White House ceremony were the 1988 honorees for the Hispanic Heritage Awards: Publisher Dr. Nicolas Kaneiios, Artist Orlando A.B. and Master Teacher Jaime Escalante.
Public Law 90-498, approved by the 90th Congress on September 17, 1968, originally created National Hispanic Heritage Week. Public Law 100-402, approved on August 17, 1988 by the 100th Congress extended this observation from one week to one month, September 15 – October 15.
Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15, the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico declared its independence on September 16, and Chile on September 18. October 12 is recognized as Dia de la Raza, (Day of the Race), and symbolizes the introduction of the Old World to the New World by Christopher Columbus.
Written by Elaine Coronado, Founder, RSVP-Latino, a project of Argus Events & Marketing