Celebrated from September 15 to October 15, Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity for schools, organizations, businesses, and agencies to educate individuals about Latino cultures. Because the month is near the beginning of the academic year, schools have to plan programming early. Why does it begin on September 15th? Five Latin American countries, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, celebrate their independence on that day. Mexico celebrates it on the 16th (that’s right, not on Cinco de Mayo), while Chile celebrates it on the 18th.
In the U.S., 10 states have over one million Latino residents: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Texas. 59.9 million Latinos live in the U.S. The Individuals below made such great marks that they should be recognized beyond Hispanic Heritage Month.
In 1951, Jose Ferrer became the first (and only) Latino to win an Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Cyrano in Cyrano de Bergerac.
In 1961, Rita Moreno became the first Latina to win an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita in West Side Story.
In 2009, Sonia Sotomayor became the first Supreme Court Justice of Latino descent.
In 1980, Chang Diaz became the first astronaut of Latino descent.
In 1928, Octaviano Ambrosio Lorrazolo became the first U.S. Senator of Latino descent, representing New Mexico.
In 1990, Ellen Ochoa became the first Latina astronaut.
In 1982, Richard Cavazos became the first Latino four-star general in the U.S. Army.
In 1989, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen became the first Latina to be elected to the U.S. Congress.
In 1990, Oscar Hijuelos became the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Mambo Kings Plays Songs of Love.
In 1973, Roberto Clemente became the first baseball player of Latino descent to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.