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Overview

National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates and recognizes the contributions Hispanic Americans have made to American society and culture and to honor five of our Central American neighbors who celebrate their independence in September.

National Hispanic Heritage Month had its origins in 1968 when Congress passed Pub. L. 90-498 (PDF, 153KB),  which authorized and requested the President to issue an annual proclamation designating the week including September 15 and 16 as National Hispanic Heritage Week.  By directing that this week should include September 15 and 16, this law celebrated Hispanic Americans and the anniversaries of independence for the Latin American countries of Costa Rico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua as well as Mexico’s independence on September 16.  In 2010 Mexico is celebrating the bicentennial of its independence. President Lyndon Johnson issued the first such proclamation, Presidential Proclamation 3869, which stated in part:

Wishing to pay special tribute to the Hispanic tradition, and having in mind the fact that our five Central American neighbors celebrate their Independence Day on the fifteenth of September and the Republic of Mexico on the sixteenth, the Congress by House Joint Resolution 1299, has requested the President to issue annually a proclamation designating the week including September 15 and 16 as National Hispanic Heritage Week.

Between 1969 and 1988 Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan issued a series of annual proclamations that designated a week in September including September 15 and 16 as National Hispanic Heritage Week.  These proclamations celebrated the contributions to America of men and women of Hispanic origin as well as recalling the work of the early Spanish explorers and settlers.

In 1988 Congress passed Pub. L. 100-402 (PDF, 58KB) which amended Pub. L. 90-498 (PDF, 153 KB) and established National Hispanic Heritage Month.  The President was again authorized and requested to issue an annual proclamation designating the “31-day period beginning September 15 and ending on October 15" as National Hispanic Heritage Month.  President George H.W. Bush issued the first proclamation, Presidential Proclamation 6021 (external link), for National Hispanic Heritage Month on September 14, 1989.  Between 1990 and 2009 Presidents George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have issued annual proclamations for National Hispanic Heritage Month.  On September 14, 1994, President Clinton issued Presidential Proclamation 6719 (external link), which recognized the extraordinary contributions and culture of Hispanic Americans.  Most recently on September 18, 2009, President Obama issued Presidential Proclamation 8417 (PDF) proclaiming National Hispanic Heritage Month for 2009 to celebrate and honor the accomplishments of Hispanic Americans.

Legislative Branch Documents

The public laws that designated a week and then a month for National Hispanic Heritage are available in the United States Statutes at Large which is widely available through federal depository libraries.

Pub. L. 90-498, 82 Stat. 848 (PDF, 153KB): A House joint resolution authorizing the President to proclaim annually the week including September 15 and 16 as National Hispanic Heritage Week.

Pub. L. 100-402, 102 Stat. 1012 (PDF, 58KB): To amend Pub. L. 90-498 to provide for the designation of National Hispanic Heritage Month.

These laws are codified in the United States Code at 36 U.S.C. 126 (PDF).

Executive Branch Documents

Presidential Proclamations and Executive Orders have been used by presidents to rule on substantive issues of law; to administer the executive branch of government; and to make general announcements to the public.  These general announcements, which exhort the public to observe a holiday such as Thanksgiving or honor a particular group of citizens as in African American History Month, are usually issued in the form of a Presidential Proclamation.  On many occasions Congress will pass a law specifically requesting the President to proclaim the recognition of a particular group of citizens, such as Jewish or Hispanic Americans.       

Listed below are links to the Presidential Proclamations for National Hispanic Heritage Week or Month beginning with 1974 along with corresponding citations to the Code of Federal Regulations or the Federal Register, the official publications for Presidential Proclamations.

Presidential proclamations as well as Presidential statements, messages, remarks for National Hispanic Heritage Month can be searched from the Government Printing Office’s Advanced Search page in the collections for the Code of Federal Regulations, the Compilation of Presidential Documents and the Federal Register.

Facts from the Census Bureau on National Hispanic Heritage Month gives statistical information about Hispanic Americans.

For more information on National Hispanic Heritage Month, see:

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Last Updated: 08/06/2014