by Ifetayo Johnson, OPEN, Inc. Executive Director

In 1968, legislation sponsored by Rep. Edward R Roybal of Los Angeles was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson commemorating a week-long observation of Hispanic Heritage. Twenty years later, legislation sponsored by Rep. Esteban Edward Torres of Pico Rivera,CA was signed by President Ronald Reagan and expanded Hispanic Heritage Week to a month from September 15th to October 15th. Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of American citizens whose ancestry traces back to Spain, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. However, it is also celebrated in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

The theme for this year’s celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month is “Heritage, Diversity, Integrity, and Honor: The Renewed Hope of America.” This is a particularly appropriate theme for this year and one I hope we all can embrace.

The month celebrates the highly diverse history and contributions of the 60 million Hispanic Americans, the nation’s largest minority group. As legislators, educators, administrators, athletes, scientists, entertainers, essential workers, and so much more, Hispanic Americans have been a vital part of our increasingly diverse society. They have also been an important component of elevating equitable oral health.

The Hispanic Dental Association has been raising the importance of good oral health in Hispanic communities for over 30 years. They have chapters in every dental school and professional chapters across the nation.

As we continue our work for a more equitable, healthier, and just America, let’s pause to celebrate the contributions that our Hispanic partners have provided for centuries. Let’s learn a little more about Hispanic history and embrace the diversity, integrity, and honor in a renewed hope for a better America for all.