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Historical Highlights

The Creation and Evolution of the National Hispanic Heritage Celebration

September 17, 1968
The Creation and Evolution of the National Hispanic Heritage Celebration Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration Representative Henry Gonzalez of Texas meets with President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 at the White House.
On this date, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the National Hispanic Heritage Week bill (P.L. 90–498) into law. In the 90th Congress (1967–1969), Representative George Edward Brown of California submitted H.J. Res. 1299, easily passing the House; the bill authorized the President to designate the week of September 15 as “National Hispanic Heritage Week.” During subsequent celebrations of Hispanic Heritage Week, Presidents issued public statements and hosted receptions while praising the contributions of Hispanic Americans to U.S. society. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus celebrated the week by citing examples of Hispanic-American contributions to the United States, drawing media attention to legislative interests for Hispanic Americans, and networking with grass roots and civil rights activists inside and outside the Hispanic-American community. In 1987, Representative Esteban Torres of California submitted H.R. 3182, a bill to expand Hispanic Heritage Week into a Hispanic Heritage Month. In his remarks, Torres noted that supporters of the legislation “want the American people to learn of our heritage. We want the public to know that we share a legacy with the rest of the country, a legacy that includes artists, writers, Olympic champions, and leaders in business, government, cinema, and science.” The month-long celebration, according to Torres, “will allow our Nation to properly observe and coordinate events and activities to celebrate Hispanic culture and achievement.” Although Torres’s bill died in committee, Senator Paul Simon of Illinois submitted S. 2200, a similar bill that amended P.L. 90–468. The Senate bill passed Congress and President Ronald W. Reagan signed it into law on August 17, 1988. One year after its passage, Representative Dale Kildee of Michigan paid tribute to Hispanic-American constituents in his district in a House Floor speech, noting that celebrants not only recognized Hispanic-American contributions to U.S. culture, “we are also commemorating the growth of our Nation’s culture, vastly broadened and enriched by its Hispanic citizens.”

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