Hispanic citizens represent less than 10 percent of Flint’s population, but their culture represents a lot more.
Throughout the city and Genesee County, food, art, religion and education is represented in the contributions of families, business owners, activists and other community leaders of Latino backgrounds.
Flint residents and others throughout the country have celebrated the annual Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
Co-sponsored by the Flint Downtown Development Authority and El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil, Flint kicked off the celebration with the fourth annual Flint Hispanic Festival at the Flint Farmers’ Market on Sept. 14.
Among upcoming events are El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil’s production of Cenicienta: A Quinceanera With A Taste of Cinderella, a mariachi musical based on the story of Cinderella Sept. 29 and 30 at the University of Michigan-Flint Theatre.
Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes America’s diversity as reflected among Spanish-speaking descendants and households that honor traditions of their forebears while continuing to help build the nation.
But not as much is generally known about Hispanic Heritage Month’s origins or significance, compared to many other nationally known celebrations. In recognition of the observation here are a few fun, interesting facts about the millions of people it recognizes:
- You didn’t miss half of it (unless you just weren’t paying attention). Hispanic Heritage Month’s designation from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 isn’t by accident. The beginning of the observance marks the celebration of Independence Day in Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Guatemala, all Latin American countries. Like Black History Month, Women’s History Month and others, the celebration lasts four weeks.
- LBJ and Reagan had something in common. Like Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month was initially observed for one week. Established during President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration in 1968, the celebration was expanded by President Ronald Regan 20 years later and enacted into law Aug. 17, 1988. Johnson, a Texan, and Reagan, former governor of California had both lived in states significantly populated by Mexican immigrants.
- Michigan’s Hispanic population is growing. Michigan’s Hispanic population surpassed half a million for the first time in 2017, reaching 504,857 as of last July, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That was an increase of 2.2 percent.
- They’re a melting pot within a melting pot. While Hispanic New Yorkers have represented a mix of as many as 27 percent Puerto Ricans and 21 percent Dominicans, 33 percent of D.C.-area Hispanics are of Salvadoran descent. Meanwhile, about 80 percent of metro Los Angeles Hispanics are Mexican. Meanwhile, about 80 percent of metro Los Angeles Hispanics are Mexican. Mexicans represent about 35 million American Latinos, followed by about 5.3 million Puerto Ricans and 5 million combined Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Cubans, Dominicans and Colombians.
- Hispanics are religiously diverse, too. While churches like Flint’s own Our Lady of Guadalupe and other Catholic parishes nationwide serve a largely Hispanic number of worshipers, not all Latinos practice Catholicism. Sixteen percent of Hispanic adults say they’re evangelical Protestants, and 5 percent say they are mainline Protestants. But the overwhelming majority of Hispanic adults, 55 percent, indeed, identify as Catholic.
- Hispanics in America have achieved at great levels. Scientist Severo Ochoa, a Spanish immigrant, won the Nobel Prize in 1959 and is honored with a postal stamp. Franklin Chang-Diaz became the first Costa Rican astronaut in 1986. Pittsburgh Pirates legend Roberto Clemente became the first Latin American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was the first Latina and the first Cuban American ever elected to Congress in 2012.
- Young Hispanics have political power. Millennials comprised about 44 percent of the Hispanic electorate in 2016. During any given year, more than 800,000 Hispanics celebrate their 18th birthday, according to the Pew Center.
- Hawaii isn’t America’s only island territory. While 3.4 million people live on the Spanish-speaking island of Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans are born into American citizenship. Following the Spanish-American War, the United States took possession of many of Spain’s colonies, including Puerto Rico, Guam, Cuba and the Philippines.
Lead image by Danen Williams