Each year the United States honors the contributions that Latinos have made to our great country with Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 till October 15.
The annual, month long celebration began 26 years ago. Congress had first passed a resolution to celebrate Hispanic Heritage at the national level, as a week long event on September 17, 1968. Nearly 20 years later, on August 17, 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded the celebration to a month.
Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month gives us an opportunity to reflect on what makes Latinos such a strong, contributing force in America.
Latinos have had a profound and positive influence on our country through their commitment to family, faith, hard work and service. They have enhanced and shaped our national character with centuries old traditions that reflect the multiethnic and multicultural customs of their community.
With over 50 million Latinos across the United States, Latinos now make up the largest minority group and represent billions in buying power. Latinos also represent the fastest growing segment of the American electorate.
In Arizona, Raul Castro served as our first Latino Governor in the 1970’s. In 1991, Ed Pastor was the first Latino elected to represent Arizona in the U.S. Congress. Today there are two Latinos in Congress representing Arizona: Raul Grijalva and Ruben Gallego.
In Tucson and Pima County, Latinos have sent a strong message by turning out to vote and leading the state in the number of Latinos that have been elected to governing bodies such as the state legislature, Pima County government, the Tucson City Council, Pima Community College governing board and local school districts.
In a recent article in “Inside Tucson Business,” entitled “Hispanics a Key to Tucson’s Rebound,” it discussed the importance of buying power of the Latino Community in Tucson, Pima County and throughout Arizona. It noted, “The Latino impact on the local and national economy and that the purchasing power represents $8 billion per year in Pima County, a number that is expected to increase by 88% in the next decade.” By 2024, Latinos are estimated to spend $14 billion in the Tucson economy, equating to 28 percent of the total market spending.
As we reflected on the Latino contributions in this great country, let us not lose sight of where we, as Americans, Arizonans, Tucsonans need to go. We must continue to work together to solve the challenges of today, so our community and our children have a better tomorrow.