AHCA Marks National Hispanic Heritage Month
By Alicia Perez-Hodge
As a member of the board of directors of the AHCA, I volunteered to write an article in recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month. I wanted to focus on Texas and local history. As I began the research and writing I realized the history of Hispanics, Mexican Americans, Latinos, Chicanos fills volumes of books, articles, and documents yet to be discovered. Chicano Studies scholars and other researchers are still learning about our history and stories through interviews, genealogy, and the uncovering of old archives in both the U.S. and Mexico. It was difficult to condense all that information into an article for a newsletter. So with the help and advice of editor Geoffrey Wool, the article discusses the origins of National Hispanic Heritage Week and provides a brief overview of demographics of Latinos in the U.S., Texas, and Austin. A second article traces the history and evolving friendship between the Cities of Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico and Austin, Texas, U.S.A.
THE ORIGINS OF THE CELEBRATION
National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed in the U.S. from September 15 through October 15. President Lyndon Baines Johnson launched the tradition in 1968, when he proclaimed the observance of Hispanic Heritage Week. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that expanded the commemorative week to a month-long celebration to highlight the contributions, accomplishments, history, and cultural influence of Latinos in the United States.
Hispanic Heritage Month starts on September 15 because the date is celebrated as Independence Day by several Latin American Countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Also, Mexico celebrates its Independence Day on September 16 and Columbia on September 18.
Especially in the Southwestern part of the U.S., an extensive shared history reflects the influence of the Hispanic culture, which is woven into the social fabric of Texas and its capital city of Austin.
THE GROWTH OF HISPANIC POPULATION
"The U.S. Hispanic population reached 62.5 million in 2021, up from 50.5 million in 2010,” according to the Pew Research Center website. “Hispanics are now 19% of the U.S. population, which equates to one-in-five people living in the U.S. are of Hispanic descent." The report goes on to say, "The U.S. population grew by 23.1 million from 2010 to 2021, and Hispanics accounted for 52% of that increase." People of Mexican decent account for an estimated 60% of all Hispanics living in the U.S. The following graph indicates a steady growth in the U.S. Hispanic population for approximately the last 30 years.
In Texas, Hispanics now comprise the largest share of the population. The Texas Tribune reported updated information from the U.S. Census Bureau: "The new population figures show Hispanic Texans are 40.2% of the state's population, barely edging out non-Hispanic white Texans who make up 39.8% of the population." In the last decade, Texas saw the fastest growth in Hispanic population of any state in the U.S.
Of those people in Texas identifying as Hispanic, individuals of Mexican descent represent 83%.
In Austin, the most recent census shows Latinos are 33.1% of the city's population or approximately 460,000 residents. Austin's Latino population grew by 35% from 2010 to 2020. Half of all children enrolled in the Austin Independent School District are Hispanic with the majority being of Mexican descent.
Read the companion article, Mexican-Texas History and the Creation of a Lasting Friendship Through Sister Cities.