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A Message from EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows on Hispanic Heritage Month 2021

During Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate the extraordinary achievements of our nation’s diverse Latino community.  From September 15 to October 15, we honor the contributions of a vibrant, multifaceted, multiethnic group of people, whose roots stem from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, South America and Spain.

The origins of Hispanic Heritage Month date back to 1968, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a bill establishing the week starting on September 15 as Hispanic Heritage Week.  In 1988, congress voted to expand Hispanic Heritage Week into Hispanic Heritage Month.  President Ronald Reagan subsequently signed the bill into law. 

Choosing September 15th as the starting point of Hispanic Heritage Month is symbolic because it coincides with the Independence Days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.  Other countries, such as Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18, and September 21 respectively.

Today, the U.S. Latino population has reached 62.1 million, up from 50.5 million in 2010.[1]  Within this population, people of Mexican origin account for almost 62% of the country’s overall Latino population followed by Puerto Ricans (9.7%), and Cubans (3.9%).[2]  According to the Pew Research Center, the number of Latinos who identify as multiracial has increased dramatically, a larger share has more college experience than their predecessors, and the share of Latinos who are immigrants is on the decline.

For many, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to reflect on past and present contributions of Latinos in American society. When reflecting on her own life experience, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Justice, once advised, “It is important for all of us to appreciate where we come from and how that history has really shaped us in ways that we might not understand.”[3] 

To fully appreciate and understand the Latino experience in the United States, one must acknowledge the diversity within the Latino community.  While many Latinos immigrated to the United States to escape poverty, war or political persecution, others have deep, multi-generational ties to this country, dating back decades if not centuries.  These varying experiences have shaped American history and society in profound ways.

Latinos have played a critical role in the economic success of our country.  They are entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, doctors, teachers, and lawyers. They are artists and public servants.  They are soldiers and veterans, who have sacrificed their lives to preserve our freedom and liberties.  And during this pandemic, they have been frontline and essential workers, working in service sector jobs and agriculture.

Latinos in the United States have experienced significant economic hardship during the pandemic, and half of all Latinos had a family member or close friend hospitalized or die from COVID-19.  Yet according to the Pew Research Center, most Latinos remain optimistic about their future and the future of our nation.[4]  And while in the past Latinos have been viewed as “foreigners” and as the EEOC’s work has shown, many experience stereotyping and discrimination in American workplaces, demonstrated strength and resilience during these difficult times.

I’m proud to say that the EEOC has been at the forefront of protecting the civil rights of Latino workers.  We have a strong record of preventing and remedying discrimination for Latino employees.  The EEOC has recovered millions of dollars on behalf of Mexican and Indigenous farmworker women who were sexually harassed and assaulted in the fields, as well as Latino workers harassed and retaliated against because of their national origin, including for speaking Spanish or speaking with an accent.[5]

The Latino community is part of our national fabric, vital to our social and economic prosperity.  The EEOC will continue to vigorously combat unfair treatment against Latinos by investigating charges filed with the agency and using its enforcement authority when necessary to stop and remedy unlawful discrimination. 

As Chair of the EEOC, I celebrate the contributions of the Latino community.  I am committed to ensuring a workplace free of discrimination and governed by our guiding principles of equality and justice for all. 

[1] Facts about U.S. Latinos for Hispanic Heritage Month | Pew Research Center,

[2] Id. Other Hispanic groups with populations over 1 million include Salvadorans, Dominicans, Guatemalans, Columbians and Hondurans.  

[3] Justice Sonia Sotomayor (commonwealthclub.org)

[4] For U.S. Latinos, COVID-19 Has Taken a Personal and Financial Toll | Pew Research Center

[5]  See La Cantera Resort and Spa to Pay Over $2.5 Million to Settle EEOC National Origin Discrimination Suit | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; See also Pape Material Handling to Pay $650,000 to Settle EEOC National Origin Harassment Lawsuit | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.