Hispanic Heritage Month
By Kimberly Brown, Family Historian
The month from 15 September to 15 October is Hispanic Heritage Month. The event was originally Hispanic Heritage Week, approved by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. In 1988 President Ronald Reagan made it a month-long event. 15 September was chosen as the starting point for the celebration because five Latin American countries celebrate it as their day of independence: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua all declared independence on 15 September 1821. In addition, Mexico celebrates its independence day on 16 September, Chile on 18 September, and Belize on 21 September.
Today Hispanic culture in America is thriving. Hispanic Americans are the fastest-growing minority group in the United States, with 46.9 million Hispanic Americans in July of 2008. Hispanics are the largest minority group in America, comprising 15% of the nation's total population, not including Puerto Rico. Only Mexico, with 110 million Hispanics, has a larger Hispanic population than that of the United States. Forty-eight percent of Hispanic Americans live in California or Texas, with 13.5 million in California and 8.9 million in Texas.
One of the best sources for searching your genealogy, if your Hispanic ancestors were from Mexico, is the 1930 Mexican census. This census is available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and its extension offices, Family History Centers. FamilySearch Indexing is currently working on digitizing all these records; they will soon be made available free on pilot.familysearch.org. In addition to the census, the Family History library has microfilmed 99% of Mexican parish records. Parish records are a gold mine for genealogical researchers, since every baptism, marriage, and death was recorded by the parish priest.
If you have early Spanish ancestors in the Americas that you want to learn more about, the Spanish Colonial Research Center is a prime resource. A partnership between the National Park Service and the University of New Mexico, the Research Center has over 85,000 pages of Spanish colonial documents, microfilmed. The Research Center also publishes the Colonial Latin American Historical Review, a quarterly journal.