Hispanic heritage in the United States
The first to have contact with the previous inhabitants of the current United States territory were the Spanish, in the 16th century, under the leadership of the Spanish explorer and conqueror Juan Ponce de León, discoverer of North America on the side of the Florida peninsula, to whom he gave its current name; although there is also another Spanish explorer and conqueror, Hernando de Soto, who later penetrated through that route and toured North America for three years until he died on the banks of the Mississippi River. Later, this territory was colonized by British immigrants between the 17th and 18th centuries, until it achieved its independence in 1783 and became the nation we know today, which, since 1940, has gradually been inhabited by Hispanic immigrants, who have left its mark on American cultural life.
Consequently, the occasion of the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States is opportune, to refer to the contributions and influences of the Hispanic culture, made up of Mexicans, Central Americans, South Americans and Caribbean Islanders, living in that country for many years. According to statistical studies, it is estimated that around 60 million Hispanics ─mostly Mexicans─, and their descendants born in that country live in North American territory; that is, 18% of the population, a percentage that is increasing every time due to the continuous migration of Spanish-speakers to that country looking for a better life, which their nation of origin doesn’t offer them.
Let’s see how this national celebration comes about for the Hispanic community living in the United States. This celebration, which takes place between September 15th and October 15th, with the purpose of recognizing the contributions and influences of Spanish-speakers in the history, culture, and development of the United States, began in 1968, but at first it only lasted a week. In that year, Congress authorized then President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim National Hispanic Heritage Week, which included September 15th, for this the date on which the independence of Costa Rica is celebrated was considered, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, in addition to September 16th and 18th, dates on which Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence, respectively.
Congress authorized then President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim National Hispanic Heritage Week, which included September 15th, for this the date on which the independence of Costa Rica is celebrated was considered, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, in addition to September 16th and 18th, dates on which Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence, respectively.
Twenty years later, on August 17th, 1988, President Ronald Reagan considered a broader recognition of Americans of Hispanic origin and, with the support of Congress, the law was approved that extended the celebration for a period of 31 days, to which baptized as National Hispanic Heritage Month, from September 15th to October 15th; On this occasion, it seems, October 12th was also taken into account, date on which the Meeting of America by Spain is commemorated. Educational, cultural entities and human rights organizations participate in this celebration annually.
Today, and increasingly so, Hispanics and their descendants play an important role in American life. Although English is the most widely used language in the country, the most obvious contribution is the inclusion of Spanish, which has become the second most widely spoken language there, according to the US Census Bureau. Members of this community have ventured into politics, commerce, education, science, sports, music, dance, fashion design, film, and the visual arts.
In relation to the visual arts, which is the field of our interest, it is appropriate to mention that there have been many Hispanic artists who have studied, produced, exhibited, sold and donated their works to public and private institutions in the North American territory; Similarly, Hispanic patrons and collectors have donated part of their collection to museums such as the MOMA, for example; also, renowned Hispanic curators, as staff of North American museums and galleries, have carried out investigative and curatorial work on the artistic production of Hispanic creators residing in the United States. And something else, in 2020 Congress approved a law to establish the Latin American Museum in Washington, DC; in fact, there are many Latin American museums throughout North America, including the National Museum of the American Latino and the Museum of Latin American Art.