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Hispanic & Latin American Heritage Month: Its history and ways to celebrate

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Hispanic Heritage Month, an official U.S. observance, is a 30-day celebration of culture.

The U.S. has officially observed Hispanic Heritage Month for only a few decades, but the cultures it celebrates have been around for centuries.

Here's everything you should know about the month.

What is Hispanic & Latin American Heritage Month?

Hispanic Heritage Month is an official U.S. observance. The month is a time to learn about and recognize the "histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America," according to the Library of Congress.

When is it?

Unlike other observance months, Hispanic Heritage Month doesn't align with a month on the calendar. It's September 15 - October 15.

The start date was carefully chosen for its cultural relevance. September 15 is Independence Day for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Also during the monthlong period are Mexico and Chile's independence days, as well as Dia de la Raza, a national holiday in Mexico.

When was it started?

Lyndon Johnson was the first president to make an official government celebration 49 years ago when he started Hispanic Heritage Week. President Ronald Reagan expanded it to Hispanic Heritage Month.

How is it celebrated?

Hispanic & Latin American Heritage Month is celebrated in myriad ways, from parades to concerts to food fairs.

Another way to celebrate is to learn. Research important Latino figures in history or attend an educational Hispanic & Latin American Heritage Month event near you, such as an art exhibit. And if you're a teacher, the Library of Congress' website supplies plenty of lesson plans so your class can celebrate, too.