San Miguel de Gualdape was the first European settlement in North America. It was founded in Georgia in 1526, 81 years before Jamestown. St. Augustine, Florida was founded in 1565 and is the oldest city in the United States. Hispanic Americans have been making contributions to life in the U.S. ever since.
The first formal recognition of Hispanic Heritage was made by Congress in 1968. Originally designated as the week of September 15, the celebration was centered around the Independence Days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, which are celebrated on September 15, and Mexico, which is celebrated on September 16.
In 1988, the celebration was extended to 31 days, beginning on September 15 and ending on October 15. It now includes Chile’s Independence Day (September 18) and el Dia de la Raza, or the Hispanic Celebration of Columbus Day (October 12).
According to the U.S. Census, people of Hispanic descent can trace their ancestry to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spain and the Spanish-speaking countries of Central and South America. National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates people of various difference races, from more than 20 different nations around the world who share a related cultural and ethnic heritage.