By Angela Padron

Each year from mid-September to mid-October, Americans recognize and learn about the histories, cultures and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and both Central and South America.

But why celebrate?

First, September 15th is the anniversary of independence for five Hispanic countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua). In addition, two other Hispanic countries – Mexico and Chile – celebrate their independence on September 16th . Furthermore, October 12 is El Día de la Raza, or “The Day of the Race” on which many people celebrate who have historical and cultural ties to Mexico, Central America and South America, including those with Native American ties (Mayan, Aztec and Inca) and to European countries like Spain.

But why celebrate?

Hundreds of years ago, Hispanics were some of the earliest people to explore and settle in the New World, including what is now called the United States.  The Hispanic language and culture is evident in most areas of the Americas today, and it’s important to understand the contributions made by Hispanics throughout history.

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But seriously, why celebrate?

Although the United States is comprised of so many different kinds of people, the Spanish language and different Hispanic cultures have greatly influenced our American culture and way of life. In the United States alone, it is estimated that over 50 million Hispanics or Latinos live in the U.S. That’s an increase of 43 percent in just ten years! With those kinds of numbers increasing by the day, every place in the U.S. is bound to encounter people of Hispanic descent sooner or later.

Most importantly, though, learning about Hispanic Heritage Month can teach tolerance and acceptance of someone who may not speak the same language, practice the same religion, or follow the same cultural practices as you. And in today’s world, learning to accept and appreciate one another is reason enough to celebrate.

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