Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15, the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico declared its independence on September 16, and Chile on September 18.
The term Hispanic, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, refers to Spanish-speaking people in the United States of any race. On the 2000 Census form, people of Spanish/Hispanic/Latino origin could identify themselves as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or "other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino." More than 35 million people identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino on the 2000 Census.
To recognize and honor milestones for the Hispanic Culture here in the U.S., below is a list of some Famous Firsts by Hispanic Americans.
• Member of U.S. Congress: Joseph Marion Hernández, 1822, delegate from the Florida territory.
• U.S. Senator: Octaviano Larrazolo was elected in 1928.
• U.S. Surgeon General: Antonia Coello Novello, 1990–1993.
• U.S. Attorney General: Alberto Gonzales, 2005.
Science and Medicine
• Astronaut: Franklin Chang-Dìaz, 1986. He flew on a total of seven space-shuttle missions.
• Nobel Prize in Physics: Luiz Walter Alvarez, 1968, for discoveries about subatomic particles. Later, he and his son proposed the now-accepted theory that the mass dinosaur extinction was caused by a meteor impact.
• Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: Severo Ochoa, 1959, for the synthesis of ribonucleic acid (RNA).
• Opera diva: Lucrezia Bori, who debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in 1912.
• Rock star: Richie Valens, 1958.
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee: Carlos Santana, 1998.
• Oscar, Best Actor: José Ferrer, 1950, Cyrano de Bergerac.
• Oscar, Best Supporting Actress: Rita Moreno, 1961, West Side Story.
• Oscar, Best Supporting Actor: Benecio Del Toro, 2000, Traffic.
• Hollywood director: Raoul Walsh, 1914, The Life of General Villa.
• Star of a network television show: Desi Arnaz, 1952, I Love Lucy.
• Broadcaster of the Year: Geraldo Rivera, 1971.