It's The Middle of The Month -- And The Beginning Of Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month started yesterday and if you didn't notice, we're betting you do today since the majority of Latinos in U.S. will be celebrating 16 de Septiembre -- Mexican Independence Day.

Maybe you missed it because no other month-long celebration begins in the middle of the month.

Yes, it's true, September 15th is the official kickoff of everything Hispanic/Latino/Chicano/Tejano (or whatever word one chooses to describe their Spanish/Mexican/Americano roots), and it can be a marketing nightmare.

So, why is it that the holiday is spread over two months? Is it because Hispanics are used to having long hyphenated names?

"Even Hispanic Heritage Month has to cross borders," my colleague Danny Lopez says. Or, as Lupe Mendez from the Brazilian Arts Foundation says, "It's because the Olmecs, Aztecs, Mayan, and Tainos couldn't get their calendar books together."

Those are both good arguments, but the official government reasoning is that seven Americano countries celebrate their independence from Spain within four days of each other.

Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua celebrate Independence Day on September 15th. Mexico on the 16th and Chile on the 18th.

Second, the government was under pressure to create a Hispanic Heritage month so wouldn't it make sense to start on a date that so many Latinos would be celebrating anyway?

The date would also incorporate most of the Hispanics in the U.S. too. Mexicans and the collective group of "Other Hispanics" (excluding Cubanos and Puerto Ricans) are the two biggest segment of the U.S. Hispanic population according to the 2000 census (62.6 percent and 23.7 percent respectively.) 

Puerto Ricans come in third at 10.1% and Cubanos account for only 3.6% of the U.S. Hispanic population.

And really, why would Hispanics complain? At least it is truly a month-long observance -- all 31 days of it.

Besides chugging down margaritas all month, here are a few cool things you can do to join in the celebration.

Art League Houston presents The Image Altered in the J.P. Morgan Chase Heritage Hall (Downtown Houston.) Opening reception is be Thursday, September 24 from 5:30 - 7:30 pm (that means free wine and cheese.) Artwork from five Latino artists, including local badass Chuy Benitez.

Talento Bilingüe de Houston presents Bocón (September 28th, 29th, & 30th), a theater production featuring TBH's first graduating acting class . Bocón is written by Lisa Loomer and directed by Angeles Romero, TBH's artist-in-residence.

MECA Hispanic Heritage Art Exhibit (September 11th - October 16th) showcasing several local Hispanic artists. Visual Arts Curator, Diana Muniz. 10 a.m - 7 p.m, Monday-Friday. Free.

Rothko Chapel kicks off its Hispanic Heritage series with the long title Truth and Consequences on the Mexico-United States Border: An Overview -- A Series Examining Issues Critical to Human Rights and Environment this Thursday, September 17th at 7 p.m. It's a four-part lecture series examining issues critical to human rights and the environment along the Mexico-United States border. Free.

The community of Magnolia Park celebrates its 100-year anniversary in October and the Harris County Historical Commission marks the occasion with two Texas Historical Commission markers on October 6th starting at 10 a.m. Free.

The Miller Theatre holds the 30th Annual Festival Chicano October 1st, 2nd and 3rd at 7p.m. each evening. It's Chicano music, from Tejano to Conjunto, to Mariachi and Orchestra and "one of the oldest events of its type in the world." Free.

And if you haven't seen Grupo Fantasma perform this is definitely one not to miss -- Thursday, October 1st, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. as part of the Capital One Bank Thursday concert series at Discovery Green. "Hip-shaking, horn-blaring, Grammy-nominated Latin Funk!" at its best. Co-sponsored by Houston Press & Saint Arnold Brewing Company & 103.7 KHJK. Free.

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