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National Hispanic Heritage Month

By Jessica Gonzalez

For the FCT

During National Hispanic Heritage Month we recognize the many achievements, contributions, and the importance of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the U.S. while praising their heritage and culture.

The observation of National His panic Month actually started in 1968 as National Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson. In 1988, President Ronald Regan lengthened Hispanic Heritage Week to National Hispanic Heritage Month, which covers a 30-day period starting September 15 to October 15.

September 15 is most important because it is the anniversary of independence for the Latin American countries of Coast Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence on September 16 and September 18.

Today the United States consists of more than 54 million Latinos. Latinos include Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, Dominicans, and people from Central America, such as El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

We come across Latinos in any part of this country but yet not many of us know much about them. The Latin Americans are a very diverse group of people. In fact they are one of largest minority groups in the United States. Latinos are descendants from Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas.

Religion plays a very central role in the lives of Latin Americans. The most practiced religion in most Latin American families is Catholicism. Catholicism was brought into the United States by the Spanish. The first Catholic mass was celebrated in St. Augustine, Florida in 1565. Catholicism is not the only religion Latinos practice. Protestants account for 18 percent, Catholic 70 percent, and 12 percent do not claim a religion.

Family is a major role in the lives of Latin Americans. They have strong bonds and frequent interaction among their families. Not only is the immediate family important but also the extended family. Latinos place the needs of their families before their own individual needs. One great example of this is immigrants. When Latinos enter the United States undocumented, they have a reason behind it. It is mainly to better the lives of their family. It is seen as a dream to them to get to the United States. They see the United States as a country of great opportunities. They come here to participate. They leave behind all they know and all who they love. They embrace their culture but yet still try to adopt customs from the United States. They find a way each and every day to put food on the table. They call the United States their home and are happy to be a part of it.

Latinos are very festive people. They enjoy having parties and being gathered around loved ones. Their fiestas include bailes, piñatas, and a variety of food. Latin Americans have a large cuisine of foods. Their two main staples of food are beans and rice. Every country has their own spices and their own unique way to cook. Tacos, pupusas, pozole, and mole are some very known dishes of Latin America.

Latinos are known for being humble, hardworking, determined, and passionate people. Many of them are faced day by day with obstacles, yet that does not stop them from going further. Throughout the years Latinos have made a tremendous difference in the United States. Many may not think so but some way or another, Latin Americans have tried their best effort to contribute and somehow give back to the United States for all the opportunities this country has offered them. Today, we see Latinos involved in high-ranking government positions. This country has been a true blessing for each and every Latino!

This article was written by Jessica Gonzalez, a member of the Franklin County Latin American Heritage Program, which is sponsored by the Franklin County Extension System and the Latin American Heritage Festival Program.

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