7 Facts About Hispanic Heritage Month

Brazil is one several South American countries that celebrate Independence Day during America's Hispanic Heritage Month.
Brazil is one several South American countries that celebrate Independence Day during America's Hispanic Heritage Month.
MesquitaFMS/iStock via Getty Images

For more than 30 years, Americans have celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 through October 15 each year—though the country has officially recognized the importance of the Hispanic community’s many contributions to the cultural fabric of America going all the way back to the late 1960s. Here are some facts about how this annual celebration came to be, and how you can take part.

1. A celebration of Hispanic Heritage was first formally recognized in 1968.

Photo of President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Oval Office. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The civil rights movement of the 1960s led to increased awareness of underrepresented groups in America, and in June 1968, the United States government began considering how to best formally recognize the contributions of the Hispanic community to America’s history and culture.

On September 17, 1968, Congress passed Public Law 90-48, which allowed President Lyndon B. Johnson to make a presidential proclamation to formally honor Hispanic heritage by marking September 15 and September 16 as the beginning of what was then known as National Hispanic Heritage Week.

2. Hispanic Heritage Month was introduced by California Congressman George E. Brown.

George E. Brown, a Congressman from California, was the person who originally introduced the idea of paying tribute to Hispanic heritage in June 1968. Brown represented East Los Angeles and a portion of the San Gabriel Valley, areas of the state with large Hispanic populations. Brown saw an opportunity to celebrate the culture and advocated to recognize their contributions to the United States.

3. It was originally founded as Hispanic Heritage Week.

Esteban TorresPublic Domain, Wikimedia Commons

While Johnson’s proclamation was a victory for the Hispanic community in terms of creating an annual celebration, initially it was just a single week, not a whole month, that was carved out for these events. Nearly 20 years later, in 1987, Esteban Torres—who served as a representative for the state of California's 34th congressional district between 1983 and 1999—introduced H.R. 3182, a bill seeking to expand the festivities from one week to one month. Torres explained that he and his supporters “want the public to know that we share a legacy with the rest of the country, a legacy that includes artists, writers, Olympic champions, and leaders in business, government, cinema, and science.”

Though Torres was unsuccessful with getting his own bill passed, its main purpose and sentiments were shared by Illinois senator Paul Simon, who submitted his own bill that would amend the original Public Law 90–468 to account for an extended celebration. Simon had more luck with his bill, which was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on August 17, 1988.

4. Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15th—a date that holds an important meaning.

A painting by Chilean painter Luis Vergara Ahumada depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence of Central America in Guatemala by Father José Matías Delgado in 1821.Luis Vergara Ahumada, Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

In the early 19th century, rebellions broke out across Central America as more and more citizens openly opposed Spain’s centuries-old sovereignty over the region. Fortunately, it didn’t lead to an all-out war: Instead, respected leaders and other community representatives from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua convened in Guatemala City in 1821 to devise a plan. On September 15, they formally declared freedom from Spain in a document called the Act of Independence. Those five countries now celebrate September 15 as Independence Day.

5. Hispanic Heritage Month takes place over two different months.

Hispanic Heritage Month is unique in that it technically occurs in two different calendar months. It begins every year on September 15 and extends through October 15. Beyond the five countries that celebrate Independence Day on September 15, Mexico's Independence Day is on September 16 and Chile's falls on September 18. By lasting 30 days, the month encompasses these holidays as well as the Mexican celebration of Dia de la Raza on October 12.

6. Many of the country's most important cultural institutions, including the National Park Service, celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, you’re in luck. A wide range of cultural institutions host a variety of activities and events in honor of the occasion. You can participate in anything from educational webinars held by the National Archives to the Smithsonian’s family-friendly archaeology lessons, conducted in Spanish. In addition to sharing ideas on how to honor Hispanic Heritage Month in the outdoors, the National Park Service has resources for educators, and a rich archive of stories about people and the places they influence.

7. The Law Library of Congress has an entire website dedicated to Hispanic Heritage Month.

If you’re interested in the political history of how Hispanic Heritage Month came to be, and how it has changed since its initial founding in 1968, the Law Library of Congress hosts a website that maintains copies of the various laws, proclamations, and other legal documents related to this annual celebration.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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How Gangsters and the Media Helped Make Trick or Treating a Halloween Tradition

Criminal behavior was seen as an inspiration for trick or treating in the 1930s.
Criminal behavior was seen as an inspiration for trick or treating in the 1930s.
General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

On Halloween night in 1934, a scene played out in Helena, Montana, that the local newspaper, the Helena Independent, related as though it were a scene out of a mafia confrontation [PDF]. A group of teenagers roughly 15 to 16 years old knocked on a woman’s door and asserted they were there for the purposes of trick or treating. When the woman refused their request, they opted for a third outcome—property damage. The kids smashed her birdbath.

The paper identified the group’s “leader” as “Pretty Boy” John Doe, a nod to Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, a notorious gangster who had been killed in a police shootout just two weeks before. In media and in the minds of kids, the then-novel practice of trick or treating on Halloween was not quite innocent fun. It was emblematic of the public’s infatuation with civil disobedience and organized crime, and it would take no lesser positive influences than Donald Duck and Charlie Brown to make adults believe Halloween wasn’t merely a training ground for America’s youth to become hoodlums.

 

Trick or treating is a relatively new phenomenon in North America. The concept of going door to door and requesting candy on Halloween was virtually unheard-of prior to the 1920s, though it did have antecedents in ancient history. In the Middle Ages, following the Catholic Church’s re-appropriation of Celtic celebrations, kids would dress as saints, angels, and demons in what was known as “guising,” from “disguising.” These cloaked figures would go from one door to the next, requesting food or money in exchange for singing their benefactors a song or praying. This solicitation was known as “souling,” and children and poor adults who engaged in it were known as “soulers.”

Scottish and Irish immigrants likely brought guising over to North America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Around the same time, kids were in the habit of dressing up for other holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, and requesting money. When costumed events for Halloween became more prevalent and citywide celebrations were organized to help discourage kids from playing pranks, private groups began planning door-to-door visits in the 1920s. That’s when the disparate elements of costumes, mild pranks like ringing a doorbell and then running off, and getting treats all converged, seemingly taking a more sinister turn.

Early trick or treating was serious business.Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Writing in the American Journal of Play in 2011 [PDF], author Samira Kawash took a closer look at the rise in popularity of trick or treating and the seeming glorification of organized crime figures during the economically turbulent period of the 1930s. It’s little coincidence, Kawash wrote, that kids began to approach trick or treating as a form of extortion just as antiheroes achieved infamy in newspapers. The media reflected this influence, often writing of pranks in breathless terms. The threat of soaping windows if targets didn’t pay up in the form of treats was nothing more than a juvenile version of a mobster offering “protection” to a shopkeeper. Demands for candy could be considered a “shakedown.” The treats were “edible plunder.” Roving groups of costumed kids were “goon squads.” Some kids even bypassed requests for candy and demanded money instead.

In some parts of the country, the idea of making a choice between handing out food or suffering from a “trick” was new. In Beatrice, Nebraska, in 1938, a group of young boys told local police chief Paul Acton about their success. “We knock on the door,” one said, “and ask if they’d rather give us a treat, or have us dump over the garbage pail. Boy, have we been eating!”

The media took a critical approach to this new tradition, warning readers that such activities could be creating the criminals of tomorrow. Not everyone responded kindly to it, either. In Brooklyn, a school principal responded to a trick or treat offer by slapping a child across the face after he was admonished by a tyke to “hand it over or else.” Trick or treating had morphed from a pitiable request for charity to a sneering threat of property destruction in lieu of a candy bar.

 

Trick or treating began to lose some of its edge during World War II, when sugar rationing disrupted the entire concept of Halloween and vandalizing homes seemed especially cruel considering the global threat to democracy. In Reno, Nevada, in 1942, a school superintendent named E.O. Vaughn told principals and teachers to caution kids against knocking on doors, both because of the war and because it had a “tinge of gangsterism.” By the time candy had resumed normal production and the nation was no longer mired in war or a financial crisis, it had settled into something mostly innocent. (But not totally without mischief. In 1948, local police in Dunkirk, New York, advised adults to phone them when a group of kids was spotted so cops could “round up the children.”)

By the 1950s, trick or treating was less about property damage and more about having fun with friends.Joe Clark, Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Helping restore the reputation of trick or treating were two familiar icons in popular culture. In 1951, Charles Schulz drew a series of Peanuts comic strips that featured Charlie Brown and his friends going door to door. (Peppermint Patty uses Charlie Brown’s head as inspiration for her pumpkin carving.) The strip, read by millions of people daily, normalized the practice. So did Trick or Treat, a 1952 Donald Duck cartoon that was released theatrically and featured Donald caught in a battle of tricks with nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

Further legitimizing the practice of demanding treats was the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, or UNICEF, which provided boxes for kids to collect their sugary bounty as well as request spare change. The effort eventually raised $175 million and returned trick or treating to its more charitable origins.

Although Halloween has settled into a widely understood arrangement in which candy is distributed without any overt threat of birdbath-bashing, not everyone has abandoned the brute force aspects of the 1930s. According to data compiled by GateHouse Media and taken from the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System, there were 19,900 acts of vandalism on October 31 over a 10-year period from 2009 to 2018. Only New Year’s Day was more eventful, with 21,000 acts committed in the same timeframe. For many, Halloween is a time to collect treats. For others, it remains the season for tricks.