National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated between September 15th and October 15th to honor the heritage and achievements of Latino/Hispanic people.
Latinos are currently the second-largest and fastest-growing ethnic group in Minnesota. While many Latinos are newcomers to the state, other families have been here for many generations. In fact, Latinos have been living in Minnesota since the 1880s.
Like immigrants throughout our history, many Latinos moved to Minnesota to seek employment, or to escape poverty or war. Many moved to the Midwest when meat-packing, agricultural, and railroad industries needed more workers. Many U.S. companies, including Minnesota Sugar Company (now American Crystal Sugar), actively recruited Mexican workers during the early 20th century.
There are now about 143,000 Latinos living in Minnesota. About one-quarter live outside of the Twin Cities metro area in cities such as Willmar, Rochester, Worthington, and Faribault. In addition, there are an estimated 12,000 to 18,000 migrant farmworkers who come to the state each summer. Many of these families come from Texas.
The term "Hispanic" usually refers to Spanish-speaking people (including those from Europe). The term "Latino" usually refers to people of Latin American descent. Some groups prefer one term or the other, but they are also used interchangeably. The term "Chicano" generally refers to people of Mexican ancestry.
About two-thirds of Minnesota's Latino residents are Chicanos. Many others have moved here from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Many Latinos can trace their roots to indigenous peoples. The most well-known of these indigenous cultures include the Aztecs, Incas, Mayans, Tainos (in Cuba), and the Arawaks (in Puerto Rico), but there are many others as well.
Latinos work in all professions in the state, from factory workers to physicians. The majority of Latinos in Minnesota are bilingual, speaking both English and Spanish. Many are Catholic. Latino Minnesotans have brought a variety of customs and traditions to the state, and add their personal experiences, language, music, art, and cuisine to Minnesota's cultural mix.
Nationally, Latinos have contributed to every aspect of life, from politics to education, from science to sports. At least 38 Latinos have received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award given for military bravery. About 75 Latino Americans have served in the U.S. Congress.