How Hispanic Heritage Month Changed, Why That’s a Good Thing

Hispanics continue to climb up the socioeconomic ladder, opening up businesses and shaping public policy


According to the latest numbers from the Pew Hispanic Center, the share of the Hispanic immigrant population is slowing. But with a population around 50.5 million, or about 13% of the entire U.S. population and projected to reach around a quarter of the population by 2044, the Hispanic population and its impact on our culture is here to stay. This is important context as our country celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month during September 15 – October 15.

Hispanic Heritage Month was started by Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 and expanded two decades later by Republican President Ronald Reagan as a way to celebrate the many contributions of Hispanics in the arts, sciences, politics and business. Since then, Hispanic Heritage Month has come to mean that many communities throughout our country organize festivals, parades and social gatherings to mark the month.

Of course, it’s more than celebrations. Hispanic Heritage Month is also a time when groups, non-profits, churches and other civic organizations plan voter registrations, classes for financial literacy and ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, just to name a few.

Additionally, what may have started out as a month of celebration has also come to represent the growth, significance and maturity that we are seeing in the Hispanic population. Consider this: According to the International Business Times, the Hispanic population is becoming more educated, with college enrollment among Hispanics ages 18-24 more than tripling from 1996-2012.

Of course, with higher levels of education, higher salaries typically follow. And according to Carlos Santiago, President and Chief Strategist for Santiago Solutions Group: “[Hispanic] buying power is closer to $1.5 – $1.7 trillion annually.”

For businesses, marketers and advertisers, this is an opportunity to connect with a growing audience that is brand-loyal and typically spends more than the average American. In fact, many are already undertaking this effort. According to AHAA, the Voice of Hispanic Marketing recently “revealed that the top 500 U.S. marketers have increased their spending to Hispanic dedicated efforts from 5.5 percent in 2010 to 8.4 percent in 2014.”

Of course to do this well, businesses need to do their homework to ensure that they are tailoring their message appropriately and recognizing that a message to Hispanic audience in New York is different than to a Hispanic audience in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Whereas the Hispanic population in New York City is more diverse representing Hispanics from many countries in Latin America, a Hispanic audience in New Mexico is relatively more homogenous.

Therein lies the most important lesson for us to consider during this Hispanic Heritage month. When first started in 1968, our country was vastly different. The Hispanic population was clustered mostly in the West, the Southwest and pockets in the Northeast and South Florida. Nearly, five decades later, the Hispanic population is present in every state. What’s more the Hispanic population is not merely a part of the population, but quite literally shaping and molding our very future.

As Hispanics continue to climb up the socioeconomic ladder, opening up businesses and shaping public policy, celebrating Hispanic Heritage month is celebrating the collective success of our entire diverse nation.

Related articles:

Hispanic Heritage Inspiration Celebrated

Hispanic Heritage- A Wise Man’s Life Story Lives On

Latino Heritage: Gratitude Achievement Purpose

Israel Ortega
Israel Ortega
Israel Ortega serves as The Heritage Foundation's chief spokesman to Spanish-language news media, including print, radio, television and online. And as editor of Heritage's sister website, Libertad (, Ortega is responsible both for the content and for marketing it to a variety of audiences, including media, coalitions and legislators. Ortega regularly contributes commentary to prominent Spanish-language newspapers and online publications. He is a frequent guest commentator on major Spanish radio and television outlets, including Univision, Telemundo and CNN International discussing Heritage’s research and analysis across a range of policy fronts. Ortega writes a monthly column for El Diario La Prensa, the largest and oldest Spanish-language publication in New York City. His work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal as well as digital venues such as National Review Online, Real Clear Politics, the Daily Caller, the Huffington Post, NBC Latino, Fox News Latino and Latin Business Today.

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