HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of the peoples, cultures and traditions that make up the vast Hispanic world.

Unlike most months of celebration that encompass a month from beginning to end, HHM begins on Sept. 15 and ends on Oct. 15. This is because those who first conceptualized HHM decided to include a few independences from colonial rule celebrations.

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These dates integrate the anniversaries of independence for Latin American countries — Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua — from Spanish rule. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence from Spanish rule on September 16 and September18, respectively.

Another date that is a part of this celebration is Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is Oct. 12. Many indigenous tribes and groups have been working to eradicate Columbus Day to have it replaced, officially as a Federal Holiday, with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

First, let’s talk about what the label “Hispanic” means.

Officially, Brazil rejects the identity of Hispanic for its Portuguese speaking population. For the purposes of the United States Census, the government does not classify those with Brazilian, Filipino, Belizean or Portuguese heritage as being Hispanic.

However, census data collected in 2020 in which the census database had deleted some coding categories shows that many people in the U.S. who identify as Brazilian, Filipino, Belizean or Portuguese do in fact consider themselves to be Hispanic.

So, when we are exploring and celebrating HHM, there is a great diversity amongst the populations that identify as Hispanic.

The Hispanic identity comes from colonization. When Spanish Conquistadors invaded and pillaged what is now known as The U.S. Southwest, Central America and South America (excluding Belize and Brazil), the languages, cultures and traditions of the indigenous peoples were outlawed.

In an attempt to eradicate indigenous identity and replace with Spanish language and cultural markers and Catholic traditions and beliefs, the peoples of the conquered areas lost millennia of histories and beliefs.

“Mayans at 1,000 BCE and then we have now, the age of Pit Bull. What happened in the 3,000 years between our great indigenous civilization and us? How did [Mayans] become so g********m nonexistent? If you don’t see yourself represented outside of yourself, you just feel f****g invisible. I had good reason to panic because as the great 20th Century philosopher, [George] Santayana, said ‘those who cannot remember their past are doomed to repeat it’. So, I went on an intellectual jihad. So, now, I am a self-professed ghetto scholar.”

— John Leguizamo in John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons

In Leguizamo’s stand up, he embarks on an expansive exploration of how the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Caribbean were colonized and their cultures and languages replaced with Spanish, Portuguese and British colonial rule. (You can find Leguizamo’s historical stand-up exhibition on Netflix.)

HHM week began in 1968 during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency and was expanded to a month-long celebration under Ronald Reagan’s presidency in 1988.

KHON2.com reached out to organizers of HHM to find out a bit more about this important cultural celebration.

They said they believe that the significance of HHM cannot understated. With 19% of the U.S. population and 17% of U.S. military personnel identifying as Hispanic, the descendants of colonizers and of indigenous peoples who became colonized continue to make big impacts on the linguistic, cultural, political and military fabric of the United States.

In Hawaiʻi, eleven percent of the population identifies as Hispanic. And the Hawaiʻi Hispanic Heritage Festival and Events is celebrating 31 years of bringing people together.

Their official HHM celebration will be taking place on Oct. 14 and 15 at the AMVETS West Oʻahu American Veterans Center.

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KHON2.com will be actively celebrating HHM 2023. So, be sure to check back throughout the month for more exploration of Hispanic Heritage Month.