By Virginia Volkman, Library Director
Sedona AZ (September 25, 2020) – We invite you to join Sedona Public Library in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month. The celebration was created to recognize the contributions that Hispanic Americans have made to American society and culture.
“Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America,” according to the official government website.
The observance was born in 1968, when Congress authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to issue an annual proclamation designating Hispanic Heritage Week. Just two decades later, lawmakers expanded it to a month-long celebration.
September 15 is a historically significant day that marks the anniversary of independence from Spain of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The designated period also recognizes Mexico and Chile, which celebrate their independence on September 16 and 18, respectively.
According to Pew Research Center, the U.S. Hispanic population reached 60.6 million in 2019, up from 50.7 million in 2010. This makes Hispanics the nation’s second-fastest-growing racial or ethnic group after Asian Americans. Hispanics made up 18% of the U.S. population in 2019, up from 16% in 2010 and just 5% in 1970.
Today, more than ever, Hispanic Americans play an integral role in shaping the American experience. They serve as leaders in government, law, business, science, sports, the arts and various other professions.
Because of the current discussion of Supreme Court justices, it seems appropriate to recognize Sonia Sotomayor during this month. Nominated by President Barack Obama on May 26, 2009, Sonia Sotomayor became the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice in U.S. history.
As noted in an Obama White House press release, “Judge Sonia Sotomayor has lived the American dream. Born to a Puerto Rican family, she grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx. Her parents moved to New York during World War II – her mother served in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps during the war. Her father, a factory worker with a third-grade education, died when Sotomayor was nine years old. Her mother, a nurse, then raised Sotomayor and her younger brother, Juan, now a physician in Syracuse. After her father’s death, Sotomayor turned to books for solace, and it was her newfound love of Nancy Drew that inspired a love of reading and learning, a path that ultimately led her to the law.
Most importantly, at an early age, her mother instilled in Sotomayor and her brother a belief in the power of education. Driven by an indefatigable work ethic, and rising to the challenge of managing a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes, Sotomayor excelled in school.”
Learn more about this distinguished graduate of two of America’s leading universities, Princeton University and Yale Law School, and her experience in the judicial system. There are dozens of books about her in the Yavapai Library Network, including her memoir, “My Beloved World.” It’s available in English and Spanish, and in many different formats.
Sotomayor has also written books for children. “Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You,” celebrates the many differences among children. In this warm and inclusive story, inspired by her own childhood diagnosis of diabetes, readers join along as differently abled kids use their strengths to work together and learn about each other.
In “Turning Pages: My Life Story,” Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor tells her story for young readers. She shares how books helped her cope with challenges, learn about the world, and dream of a future for herself in which anything was possible.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, explore the themed collections of films on Kanopy and ebooks and audiobooks on OverDrive, available for free with your library card. And be sure to check online for the many virtual events and suggestions for activities that celebrate Hispanic heritage.