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National Hispanic Heritage Month at the Library of Congress

(The Following is a post by Catalina Gómez, Reference Librarian, Hispanic Division.)

Spanish classical guitarist Maestro Francesc de Paula Soler, whose recital honoring Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, kick-started Hispanic Heritage Month 2016 at the LC. Photo courtesy: John Regan.

Spanish classical guitarist Maestro Francesc de Paula Soler, whose recital honoring Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, kick-started Hispanic Heritage Month 2016 at the Library of Congress. Photo courtesy: John Regan.

Almost half of Hispanic Heritage Month is over, but there are still many exciting programs remaining at the Library of Congress from now until the month-long celebration ends on October 15th. Just like many other institutions in DC and around the country, we are hosting a wide array of events celebrating Hispanic culture and heritage, including concerts, book presentations, lectures, special collections displays, and even a salsa workshop! The programs have been put together by a host of Library of Congress divisions such as the Hispanic Division, the Music Division, the Social Sciences and Humanities Division, American Folklife Center, as well as the Library’s Hispanic Cultural Society.

Colombian children’s book author and illustrator Juana Medina talking about her journey as an immigrant on September 21st, 2016; and her illustration “FEAT.” Photo courtesy: Catalina Gómez.

Colombian children’s book author and illustrator Juana Medina talking about her journey as an immigrant on September 21st, 2016; and her illustration “FEAT.” Photo courtesy: Catalina Gómez.

The history of National Hispanic Heritage Month dates back to 1968, when the U.S. Congress authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to designate a week in September as Hispanic Heritage Week. By 1988 the celebration became a month-long event from September 15 through October 15 of each year. Since then, National Hispanic Heritage Month has been a month that officially acknowledges and commemorates the history and culture of those Americans who trace their ancestry and culture to Spain and Latin America.

[Map of the Peninsula of Florida]. Vinckeboons, Joan. [1639?] Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

[Map of the Peninsula of Florida]. Vinckeboons, Joan. [1639?] Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

The act of celebrating the Hispanic cultural heritage in the United States holds special significance today at a time when the population of Hispanics is close to 55 million, making it the largest ethnic or racial minority in this country. But it’s important to note that the presence of Hispanics, Hispanic culture, and the Spanish language in this country dates back to the 16th century. As Georgette Dorn,Chief, Hispanic Division, Library of Congress, explains:

“Not everyone realizes that Spanish was the first European language introduced in the continental United States and remains in continuous use. Spaniards were the first to map the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines of the United States. The first Spanish expedition arrived in 1513 led by the explorer Juan Ponce de León and he named the place Florida, having reached land on an Easter Sunday – or Pascua Florida; and the first permanent European settlement in what is today the United States was the city of San Agustin, founded in 1865.”

StAugustine-castle

Entrance to the Castle St. Marcus, St. Augustine, Florida. Cooley, Sam A. (Samuel A.), photographer. [New York, New York?] : [E. & H.T. Anthony & Co.?] [between 1861 and 1869] Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Here at the Library we do our best to bring to light, through our programming, not only the vibrant cultures of Hispanic-Americans today, but also the long history of Hispanic culture in this country. Another one of our goals for Hispanic Heritage Month is to illuminate the cultural diversity within the Hispanic community. Each nation in the Hispanic world is its own microcosm of cultures, ethnic fabrics and histories, which means that Hispanic immigrants in the U.S., although considered one group in this nation, have a great deal to learn about each other.

We hope that you can come to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month at the Library. If you cannot attend our programs in person, you will be able to catch them on the Library of Congress webcast webpage later in the year. Stay tuned!