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National Hispanic Heritage Month: A Commemorative Observances Legal Resource Guide

Legislative History Overview

National Hispanic Heritage Month had its origins in 1968, when Congress passed Pub. L. No. 90-498, which authorized and requested that the President issue an annual proclamation designating the week that included September 15 and 16 as National Hispanic Heritage Week. By directing that this week should include September 15 and 16, the law celebrated Hispanic Americans and the anniversaries of independence for the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, as well as Mexico’s independence on September 16. President Lyndon Johnson issued the first such proclamation, Proclamation No. 3869 External, 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. No. 100-402, which amended Pub. L. No. 90-498 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, Proclamation No. 6021 External, for National Hispanic Heritage Month on September 14, 1989. Between 1990 and 2020, Presidents George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump have issued annual proclamations for National Hispanic Heritage Month.