What is Hispanic Heritage Month and why do we celebrate it?

Ormar Gonzales, 2, waits to perform with a Mariachi group as part of the NFL Hispanic Heritage Month on Sept. 28, 2014. (AP)

Sept. 15 marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, 30 days dedicated to celebrating Americans with Hispanic heritage, along with their cultures, history and accomplishments.

"America's Hispanic community has woven unique threads into the diverse fabric of our country and played an important role in shaping our national character as a people of limitless possibility," President Barack Obama wrote in this year's official proclamation.

The month celebrates a diverse array of cultures in Central and South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and even Spain itself. The holiday began as Hispanic Heritage Week and was expanded to a full month in 1988. Its official start day, Wednesday, is significant to several Latino cultures. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua all celebrate their independence days on that date, and the campaign for Mexican independence began at midnight between Sept. 15 and 16 in 1810.

While many of the 53 million people of Hispanic origin in the U.S. celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, critics argue that the term might not encompass their heritage. Fifteen percent of the Hispanic population prefers to be identified as "Latino," while half have no preference, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

Organizations around the country will celebrate with local events throughout the month, while the Hispanic Heritage Awards, which will take place on Sept. 17, will be nationally televised by PBS on Oct. 9.

Related Topics:
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