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Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month will be observed from Sept. 15-Oct. 15.The Cultural Life Committee encourages the Penn College community to observe National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15).

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson obtained authorization from Congress to proclaim a week in September as National Hispanic Heritage Week. In 1988, the observance was expanded by President Reagan to a monthlong commemoration, beginning Sept. 15 and ending Oct.15, making 2008 the 20th annual celebration. During this month, America celebrates the culture and traditions of U.S. residents who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and Spanish-speaking nations in Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

Sept. 15 was chosen as the starting date for the celebration because it marks the independence anniversary of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence days in September. Hispanic Heritage Month also includes Oct. 12, known as Columbus Day in the United States and as El Día de la Raza in Latin American countries.

What Is a Hispanic? Let’s start by saying what it is not. It is not a racial identification. Hispanic is more of a regional identification like saying “North American.” What is a Hispanic? Hispanics come in all sizes and shapes. There are Jewish, Arab, Asian, Indian, black and white Hispanics, as well as brown. What most Americans perceive as brown actually is a mix of Indian and white. When Spanish explorers settled the Americas, they did not bring families with them like the English settlers did when they arrived. The Spanish explorers were mostly soldiers and priests, etc. As a result, the soldiers intermarried with the Indian women they found in the countries they explored. The result was a new racial identity known as mestizos. In time, mestizos became the middle class and the largest population.

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