Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month – Those Who Made a Lasting Impact

National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the U.S. Latinx and Hispanic communities, as well as their influence and contributions to our society. President Lyndon B. Johnson officially began National Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, and it was observed until 1988 when it was expanded to the current 31-day National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrated from September 15–October 15.

The September 15th date for the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month is significant. It was chosen because it coincides with the Independence Day celebrations of several Latin American nations.

  • Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua declared their independence from Spain on September 15, 1821
  • Mexico declared its independence from Spain on September 16, 1810
  • Chile declared its independence from Spain on September 18, 1810
  • Belize declared its independence from Great Britain on September 21, 1981

Throughout the course of the month, GTL will highlight Hispanic and Latinx culture beginning with a few Hispanic and Latinx Americans who have made a lasting impact on our world.

Sonia Sotomayor
First Hispanic American Supreme Court Justice

Sonia Sotomayor, a Bronx native of Puerto Rican descendant, knew at the age of 10 that she was going to become an attorney. In 2009, Sotomayor made history as President Barack Obama’s first nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Roberto Clemente
Major League Baseball Player

Roberto Clemente was a prolific right fielder, playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates and wearing the number 21. Born in Puerto Rico, he paved the way for Hispanic Americans in Major League Baseball and became the first player of Hispanic heritage to win a World Series as a starting player in 1960. He died in a plane crash in 1972 while on his way to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua and was the first Latin American and Caribbean honoree in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Ellen Ochoa
First Hispanic American Woman Astronaut and Director of the Johnson Space Center

In 1993, Ellen Ochoa made history by becoming the first Hispanic American woman to go into space on the Discovery space shuttle. NASA selected Ochoa as part of their 1991 astronaut class, and she completed four missions in total. Ochoa was also the first Hispanic American Director of the Johnson Space Center.