On display for Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from September 15th to October 15th to honor the contributions and influences of Hispanic and Latinx cultures of America. A new exhibit on display on the 4th floor lobby of the Walter C. Langsam Library presents information about this month and features books from the collections of UC Libraries.


In 1968, President Johnson introduced National Hispanic Heritage Week in the United States. In 1988, President Regan expanded the celebration to last a month in the U.S.

Why is it Important?:

The celebration is designed to recognize the positive impact that Hispanic Americans have left on the country. As of 2020, the Hispanic population in the U.S. is 65.3 million—the largest minority group in the country—and is projected to reach 111 million by 2060, according to the U.S. Census.

The exhibit was curated by Madison Hershiser, resource sharing assistant in the Collection Development Services and Engagement Department. It was designed by Jakob Elliott, communication design co-op student. A bibliography of the books on display is available at the exhibit.

Origins of Hispanic Population in the U.S.:

  • Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory as a result of the Treaty of Paris, signed on December 10, 1898. According to the terms of the treaty to end the Spanish-American War, Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the U.S., along with the Philippines and Guam.
  • Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship by birth in 1917, but they are not allowed to vote in presidential elections and must live on the mainland to gain full citizenship rights.
  • On December 29, 1845, Texas became the 28th state. Formerly part of Mexico, Texas had been an independent country since 1836. Since its independence, Texas had sought annexation by the U.S.; however, the process took nearly 10 years due to political divisions over slavery.

Why are Hispanics Classified as White?

  • In 1929, the League of the United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a Mexican-American organization, formed in Corpus Christi, TX, worked to get “Mexican” off the 1930 census. They protested: we are a white race, we are Americans.
  • The Mexican government itself protested the category, because the entire Southwest used to be part of Mexico, and when it was taken over by the United States, they promised Mexico that the Mexican residents would be treated as full citizens. At the time, a person had to be white to be a citizen. Mexicans, specifically, identified legally white but socially not-white.
    • In 1980, a question on Spanish or Hispanic origin or descent was added to the 100-percent questions for the first time; in 1970 this question was asked of only 5 percent of the population.

Latino vs. Latina vs. LatinX vs. Hispanic

  • Latinx is a newly coined word used to refer to people of Latin American cultural or ethnic identity in the U.S. The gender-neutral ⟨-x⟩ suffix replaces the ⟨-o/-a⟩ ending of Latino and Latina that are typical of grammatical gender in Spanish. 
  • About One-in-Four U.S. Hispanics have heard of Latinx, but just 3% use it.
  • People who identify as Latin generally come from Central or South America.
  • Those who identify as Hispanic are primarily from the U.S. southwest and are of Mexican decent but are U.S. born.

Chicano Civil Rights Movements:

  • Crusade for Justice – Founded in Denver in 1966 by Rodolfo (Corky) Gonzales. Focuses on the importance of his poem I am Joaquin, which he used to reach out to Chicano youth. It was the start of the Chicano nationalism movement through its affirmation of cultural identity grounded in Aztec myths.
  • The Chicano Movement, also referred to as El Movimiento, advocated social and political empowerment through a chicanismo or cultural nationalism.
  • Other Chicano Civil Rights movements that soon followed:
    • The Struggle in the Fields – Caesar Chavez’s efforts to organize farm workers in the central valley of California.
    • Mendez v. Westminster School District of Orange County, CA – The U.S. Court of Appeals held that the forced segregation of Mexican American students into separate “Mexican schools” was unconstitutional because, “A paramount requisite in the American system of public education is social equality. It must be open to all children by unified school association regardless of lineage.”
    • East Los Angeles Walkouts/Chicano Blowouts of 1968.