Celebrating Hispanic heritage

Each year between September 15 to October 15 people observe and celebrate the unique histories, contributions and cultural influences of Hispanics.

Hispanic people are those who hail or whose ancestors hail from South America, Central America, Mexico, Spain, and areas of the Caribbean. Throughout early autumn, Hispanic culture and history is celebrated. The dates of Hispanic Heritage Month is significant because it includes the anniversaries of independence for various Latin American countries. September 15 marks when Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua achieved independence.

The first official Hispanic heritage commemoration was observed in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week. It was expanded in 1988 under then-president Ronald Regan to encompass a full month. Enacted into law on August 17, 1988, National Hispanic Heritage Month has been celebrated ever since.

The term “Hispanic” refers to people who can trace their lineage to Spanish-speaking nations. Hispanic also includes Latinos, who originate from Latin American countries. Nearly all Latinos also can be classified as Hispanic, with the exception of Brazilians because they speak Portuguese. People from Spain would be considered Hispanic, but not Latino. Other Latin American countries that are French-speaking, like Haiti, also cannot be classified as Hispanic.

According to Hispanic Research Inc., the Hispanic demographic in the United States includes people from more than 20 countries. For marketing and research purposes, as well as classification, these nations and territories are primarily listed as Hispanic.
• Argentina
• Bolivia
• Chile
• Colombia
• Costa Rica
• Cuba
• Dominican Republic
• Ecuador
• El Salvador
• Guatemala
• Honduras
• Mexico
• Nicaragua
• Panama
• Paraguay
• Peru
• Puerto Rico
• Spain
• Uruguay
• Venezuela

When mid-September arrives, the Americas and their Latin American neighbors pay homage to the very influential and ever-growing Hispanic population. It is a time of food, festivals and fanfare.

Hispanic scientists throughout history

As the second-largest ethnic group across much of North America, Hispanics have made significant in-roads across many different fields and occupations.

Over time, many Hispanics have been influential in the fields of engineering, space exploration, chemistry, and much more. The accomplishments of Hispanic scientists have helped shape the world.

• Alfonso Caso y Andrade: Caso didn’t begin as a scientist but as a philosopher. In 1925, the Mexico City native began taking classes in anthropology. He would go on to make incredible discoveries at the excavation of Tomb Seven at Monte Albán, proving the Mixtec people succeeded the Zapotec as masters of the city.

• France A. Córdova: Astrophysicist Cordova is the director of the National Science Foundation, an agency that develops programs to advance all fields of scientific discovery. During her career, Córdova conducted important research on X-ray and gamma ray sources, black holes and accretion discs.

• Carlos Juan Finlay: Born in Cuba, Finlay was a pioneer in the study of yellow fever. When he first presented his research that mosquitoes transmit the disease in 1881, Finlay became a joke at Havana’s Academy of Sciences. Finlay spent the next 20 years refining his theories until his hypothesis became widely accepted.

• Bernardo Alberto Houssay: Houssay studied the pituitary gland from a very young age, focusing on its relationship with sugar metabolism. His work helped earn him a Nobel Prize in 1947. Even more importantly, Houssay’s research proved a turning point in diabetes management.

• Ellen Ochoa: Born in Los Angeles, Ochoa became the world’s first Hispanic female astronaut in 1991. Ochoa logged more than 900 hours in space during her career. She first served on a nine-day mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery, where she studied the Earth’s ozone layer.

• Eloy Rodriguez: Rodriguez is a Mexican American born in Edinburg, TX. As a biochemist, he collaborated with primatologist Richard Wrangham to introduce the concept of zoopharmacognosy, a behavior in which non-human animals self-medicate by selecting and ingesting or topically applying plants, soils, insects, and psychoactive drugs to prevent or reduce the harmful effects of pathogens and toxins.

Many of the greatest scientists are of Hispanic descent. Their work has been groundbreaking and of great importance.

Author: Rachel Howell

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