September 15 marks the start of a month-long celebration of the heritage and culture of Hispanics and Latin Americans and their contributions to life in the United States since the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. What began as a week-long observance in 1968 was expanded twenty years later to a month. With some 54 million Hispanics in the U.S., more time was obviously needed to celebrate! September 15 was chosen as a starting point because it is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Chile, Belize, and Mexico also celebrate their independence days within a week of the 15th. Hispanic Heritage is observed with local festivals, government-sponsored events, and educational activities. Check out the sites below to learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month, then look for ways in your community to join in the fun!