Today marks the beginning National Hispanic Heritage Month, which continues until mid-October. The official recognition was started in 1968 by Congress as Hispanic Heritage Week, and in 1998 it was expanded to a month-long observance. It begins on September 15 because the date also marks the national independence days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico celebrates its independence day on September 16, while Chile and Belize follow, respectively on September 18 and September 21.
Here a number of facts to consider during the observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month, according to the Pew research organization:
1. The U.S. Latino population stands at 57 million, thus making them the second-fastest-growing racial or ethnic group after Asians. Today Latinos make up 18% of the U.S. population, up from 5% in 1970. Asians now represent the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the U.S. Asians totaled 21 million as of July 2015, up 683,000, or 3.4%, since July 2014. The Latino population grew 2.2% during the same period.
2. 27.3 million Latinos are eligible to vote in 2016, up from 23.3 million in 2012, and thus a record number. However, during the 2008 presidential election, Latinos (48.0%) lagged behind black Americans (66.6%) and white Americans (64.1%) in turning out to vote.
3. Hispanics of Mexican origin account for about two-thirds (35.3 million) of the nation’s Latino population. Persons of Puerto Rican origin are the next largest group, at 5.3 million: they have been growing due to a historic increase in migration from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland. Currently, about 3.5 million live on the island. There are five other Latino origin groups with more than 1 million people each: Salvadorans, Cubans, Dominicans, Guatemalans and Colombians.
4. As the population of Latinos born in the United States increases, even while the influx of new immigrants is flagging, the share of Latinos who are immigrants – as opposed to those who are born here – is on the decline across all Latino origin groups. The number of Latino immigrants increased slightly, between 2007 and 2014, from 18 million to 19.3 million. Latino immigrants thus constituted a smaller overall share of the Latino population: dropping from 40% to 35% over the same time period. The share of Latinos born outside of the U.S. varies by origin. Just one-third (33%) of Mexican-origin Latinos are foreign born. That’s far lower than among the other major groups – Cuban (57% foreign born), Salvadoran (59%), Dominican (54%), Guatemalan (63%) and Colombian (64%). Puerto Ricans, while they are Latino, gain U.S. citizenship automatically when born in Puerto Rico because the island is a territory of the U.S.
5. Diversity among Latinos varies between major metropolitan areas. For example, Mexicans make up 79% of Latinos in the Los Angeles metro area. In New York City, Puerto Ricans (27%) and Dominicans (21%) are the most dominant. The same is true in the Washington DC metropolitan area where Salvadorans (33%) are most numerous. In Miami, Cubans (43%) are the largest group.